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The High Priest rules Raej with political acumen and charisma, but not all is well under the desert sun. As the years progress tension between Blood and Landen grow and are now nearly at a fever pitch. Odji Khaldun’s secret war against the Landen is not public knowledge but the workings of it can be seen. Blood and Landen die on both sides while Raej subtly prepares for civil war.
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Author Topic: Leaving Your Corpse Behind  (Read 298 times)

Description: Attn: Asala

Offline Ardeth Kokoris

  • Character Account
    • rose2opal
    • prince
    • Role

      Territory Steward

    • Faction

      Cult of the Snake

    • Territory

      Raej

    • Character Sheet

      [Link]

    • OOC

      Dash

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      45

    • The Scorpion Prince

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Leaving Your Corpse Behind
« on: Jul 27, 17, 07:58:45 PM »
The Steward of Raej was a well-known entity to the Territory. Ardeth had helped Odji Khaldun rise to the position of leader of the all of Raej and helped usher in the relative peace of his rule. The Scorpion Prince, as he was referred to by most through the Territory, was known to be Odji's enforcer as well as his bookkeeper. A man with a flair for dramatic execution, those who had erred in trying to harm the Territory Court's business had their lives ended by being strangled by their own shadow or being torn apart by a swarm of flesh-eating locusts. That fearsome reputation colored all other perceptions of Ardeth Kokoris, for it was said that wherever he walked death moved in his footsteps.

Those in the Merchant Council knew him fairly better, however, as Ardeth was the member of Odji's Triangle that they met with most often. Well spoken and softly at that, if not for the tattoo of a scorpion upon his arm one might question if the two individuals were completely different men. One a cold killer, the other a cultured and refined man who had the ability to be both humble and charming.

He'd sent word before approaching her in her den. Not a very insightful courier, granted. Just simply that he wished to speak to her later that day. He did not specify a time that he would appear, as the Territory Steward it was just assumed that she would make time for him. He appeared at her doorstep right as the hot afternoon was starting to give way to a hot evening. The sun was almost set when he appeared at her home and made his announcement to her slaves.

Escorted to wherever she would meet meet him, the Scorpion Prince bore black robes and soft black shoes. He wore the sigil of his office as well as openly displayed his Jewel of rank upon a golden amulet crafted into the shape of his namesake. He certainly liked his motiff, given the various small pieces of jewelry that held a similarity to the arachnid that adorned his body.

When he saw her, Ardeth, who stood at a couple inches higher than six-feet, bowed deep toward her in respect. Though he was the higher casted, higher positioned of the two of them, he still showed her deference in her home. "Lady Meskhenet. Thank you for your graciousness." Rising to his full height, he folded his hands together before himself, affording her a small smile behind his perfectly groomed beard.

"I apologize for the late hour of business. I had other matters to see to during the day, and thought it best to approach at the twilight of the day given the season."


Offline Asala Meskhenet

  • Character Account
    • yellow2rose
    • witch
    • Role

      Head of Red Moon Houses

    • Faction

      Merchant Council

    • Territory

      Raej

    • Character Sheet

      [Link]

    • OOC

      Starling

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Re: Leaving Your Corpse Behind
« Reply #1 on: Aug 08, 17, 05:39:49 PM »
The setting sun cut through the ground floor of the dignified villa like a sword freshly pulled from the forge. From courtyard entrance, the orange glow could be seen through the thin draperies that lilted in the wind all the way at the back of the house. The entry hall gave way to a large, multipurpose room awash in the dying light, the white stone walls and everything within tinted in shades of brown and gold.

Asala's home was elegantly set, but a discerning eye would detect the lack of purposefully appointed decor. Nothing was missing, the rooms were balanced and comfortable, yet attention had not been placed on visual appeal, which might have seemed odd for an affluent member of the Merchant Council. Lady Meskhenet simply didn't prioritize the presentation of her accrued wealth in such a way. It was still difficult for her to see such things as permanent and business was her paramount concern.

What life existed in the home seemed to have vanished. Translucent fabrics shifted along the back wall, occasionally revealing the vast stepped terrace and the river beyond, but the only sound that came from those patios was the gentle sound of pooling water and the distant call of water birds. Evening lights had not yet been lit which only furthered the sense of vacancy.

After a reasonable wait, Prince Kokoris was led down a dark side hall. A pair of open doors splashed light against the adjacent wall and the closer he came, the more he would be able to make out the sound of pages being turned and papers shuffled.

Asala's office was much different from the rest of her home. For one, it was well lit and carefully designed with an eye for efficiency. A large carved ebon wood desk was the centerpiece of the space, though tucked off to one side and surrounded by bookshelves cut into the stone walls. The windows across from the doorway were presently sealed by heavy curtains that dragged beaded fringe across cushions that provided additional seating. There was a couch in one corner, a small bar in another, and three upholstered chairs in front of the desk. Across from the desk on the far left wall was a large opening into another room set with a long table and chairs. It had been judged unnecessary for the meeting, though, and like the rest of the house remained unlit.

Rasul, a favored slave looked up when Prince Kokoris was ushered in. Setting the last of the chairs into place in front of the desk, he bowed deeply. Asala had been standing behind the desk, smoothing the paperwork recently laid out to cover the expansive surface. Straightening, she absently brushed her hands against her stomach and wet her lips when he entered, then came around to better greet him.

Ardeth Kokoris was the Steward of Raej and stood darker in the abyss than she, her own bow came graciously to acknowledge his status. "Prince Kokoris, welcome," she said as she fanned a hand toward the desk. This wasn't the first time that Asala had met Ardeth, but it was the first time she'd accepted him into her home. She said nothing about the chosen hour of his arrival. She was accustomed to consorting with plenty of people of the night and keeping late hours.

Turning back toward the desk, Asala approached the edge and looked over the display of open books, ledgers, and papers that she'd assembled. "Without knowing the purpose of your visit, I took it upon myself to gather my most recent records of collections, inspections, and inventories."

Quiet for a moment, she nodded at Rahul. "Something to drink, Prince Kokoris?" He asked.

"And have you eaten?" Asala queried abruptly. She didn't know how long the visit would take, but knew better than to talk business with a hungry man.

Offline Ardeth Kokoris

  • Character Account
    • rose2opal
    • prince
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      Territory Steward

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      Cult of the Snake

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      Raej

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      Dash

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    • The Scorpion Prince

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Re: Leaving Your Corpse Behind
« Reply #2 on: Aug 21, 17, 03:06:21 PM »
Ardeth moved with the grace of a tiger at ease. His shoulders slid along with the rest of his body in near liquid locomotion; a man used to springing to action when the moment required no prior notice. His long dark hair flowed freely onto his shoulders, a waterfall of ebon silk that was lustrous to behold. Dark eyes met hers, and a smile made of pristine pearls lit up behind a field of a well-maintained, trimmed goatee. He extended his hand to catch hers, and he lifted her hand to his face to kiss her knuckles. It was not the first time he'd done so, and he'd always given such a greeting while meeting her eyes in a matter that could be described as both intimate and predatory. "Your hospitality, as always, is flawless Lady Meskhenet." He released her hand and followed her guidance, where he pulled the seat back and then slid into its confines. Lifting one leg over the other beneath his volumonous robes, Ardeth looked up to her still standing figure with an appreciative eye and a warmth that matched the heat outside that lingered as the day gave way toward night. "I would love one. Thank you. Something light to eat would be welcome, as I had a bold lunch."

The Steward did not speak toward Rasul but to his master, his eyes not leaving hers until she sat and explained the paperwork. Once she'd done so his eyes swept over her desk, just for a moment, before returning to her face. "That was very well-thought. I've not come to review your accounts, however. I had wished to discuss something more interesting than numbers and receipts." He lifted his eyebrows toward Rasul to make certain that the slave was departing, a clear indication to Asala he wished the matter to be private. Once the slave left them alone, he turned his gaze back to her. "I'll wait to dig into the matter until we are alone. I will shield the room, so if you feel a need for a guard please make certain they are one who's silence and loyalty you can trust."

It may well have been insulting to suggest she had guards or servants who she didn't trust, but he wanted it made clear this was a delicate matter.

Once he had received food and drink, he set them at the edge of her desk and let them linger there until they were alone or her guard had arrived. Placing Opal shields around her office that would block sight, sound, and entry, Ardeth reclined in his seat and steepled his fingers.

"Prince Khaldun is considering a new head for the Merchant Council. There have been several names put forth. I wanted your thoughts on the matter. I know you have certain relationships with some of the others; so do not feel that biases are not allowed. I would like your insights in your peers and on who you think would keep the best interests of the Territory at heart, rather than their own personal gain."

Ardeth's lips twitched into a smile. "Not that they won't receive some gain, of course. But priorities and loyalty must remain in place."


Offline Asala Meskhenet

  • Character Account
    • yellow2rose
    • witch
    • Role

      Head of Red Moon Houses

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      Merchant Council

    • Territory

      Raej

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      Starling

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Re: Leaving Your Corpse Behind
« Reply #3 on: Oct 12, 17, 03:37:46 AM »
Asala's smile was as gracious as her dark and dancing eyes were keen. The brightness there did not remain long enough to serve as an invitation though it wasn't curt enough to be insulting either. She moved easily, gracefully, without a hint of tension or anxious unease. If she had anything to fear from Prince Kokoris or those he answered to, it was through no fault of her own. She'd done nothing but excel since her perhaps unlikely appointment to the council.

Her eyes drifted to the desktop, neatly covered with organized statistics, reports, and notes, things that he indicated weren't required for their meeting. Whatever dismay tinged her spirits was dismissed by the sense of adventure that his following words provided. He wished to discuss something more interesting? It wouldn't take much to top numbers. Still, in her experience, intrigue in Raej came coupled with risk. Asala did not entertain risk very often. It was too dangerous to her goals, her timeline.

At Ardeth's back, Rasul hoisted a brow, acting more as a friend and less as the slave that he was. It was a convenient time to step out of bounds in the company of an official guest, but improper all the same. Had Prince Kokoris been unable to see her face, she would have withered the owned man with a venomous gaze. Later she would remind herself to address these recurring behavioral displays from her favored slaves. For now, her mind was best properly engaged with the mysterious man and topic soon to be at hand.

Rasul poured two glasses of Asala's favorite wine at the bar in the corner and delivered them without further signs of his silent editorial. As he exited to collect the fare of the evening, Asala followed Ardeth's eyes and they both watched him go, pulling the door closed at his back.

"He'll return shortly," Asala assured, understanding that Ardeth meant to be mute on the subject until the room was secured to his liking.

Standing, she moved around to the head of the desk, busying herself gathering the neat stacks of paper back together and made small talk so as not to leave the room drenched in silence. Collecting a certain few pages, she remarked on a new upturn in business in a quarter nearest the work camps, praising the man who oversaw operations there and adding that she didn't usually prefer men in such roles. Collecting the paperwork was much easier than laying it out in the first place, yet she took explicit care in doing so, colored markers peeking out from the edges of the stacks she reassembled to be filed back into storage.

When again the door swept open, two slaves entered, one a young girl, the other a large, broad-shouldered man. Each of them carried a wide silver tray of food, though the girl carried hers in both hands and the man balanced his on a wide palm as he held the door. Qismat, her Red-Jeweled Warlord Prince had been her prized possession until a recent incident had upset the order of her preference. The scars she'd placed on his back for his insubordination peeked out from his linen vest at the shoulders. They would remain there at least until they were no longer painful. Despite his offense, he was still her first choice for the duty of protecting her while also being able to secure the confidence that would be shared. The guards appointed by the council, though useful, were not her men and though she loved Rasul, he was weak in many ways.

Qismat procured a table, setting it between the two chairs and laid his tray on it. The other was pushed carefully atop the inlaid leather on Asala's desk. On the table were two plates holding a sampling of baked perch and fried ta'amia cakes sprinkled with sesame seeds. The girl produced flatbread from a covered basket, and spooned minced lettuce and spiced olive oil onto the edge of each plate before offering the first to Prince Kokoris. The other remained on the tray as Asala returned to the matching chair opposite her guest.

Nodding toward the man who took up his post in the rear corner of the room Asala settled against the cushions. "You can trust Qismat," she said, sipping her wine.

She watched Ardeth set his plate on the desk near the tray stocked with pastries and honeyed sweets. Her eyes lingered on the untouched food a moment before panning over to meet his. It would have been preferable to see him eat something first, before spikes of Craft shot out to secure the space, before he revealed his intentions. She would have to make do, however, she always did.

Tugging at the fish on her plate, she pulled up a small chunk and slipped it into her mouth as Ardeth began to tell her about the potential vacancy at the head of the Merchant Council. He asked for her opinion. Was he doing the same with all of the council? She'd not been on the council long enough for her opinion to have gained much weight as far as she knew.

With a gentle smile, Asala bowed her head and hummed a little laugh. "I won't lie and try to convince you that I can help. You're not going to get much of anything useful of out me, unfortunately. I do prefer myself as this candidate, or perhaps Prince Nassor, my mentor, but the bias of course, is clear."

Eyeing her food, Asala chose her wine instead, and smiling, took another drink, this time keeping the glass in hand.

"I don't know the others well enough to be sure of my choices. I haven't yet found issue with a single one of them apart from perhaps a lack of gumption here and there. Naturally, as I'm poorly acquainted with the lot, I don't know enough about them to attempt to separate their true selves from their professional seeming. I can tell you who seems more industrious or more capable, but for one, I wouldn't put much faith in any of my estimations, and for two, I remain at the top of these lists."  She shrugged softly. "I'm not qualified to judge, and yes, I'm biased, probably to a fault."

Asala gave another quietly ringing laugh. "I would be in it for my own personal gain, but that's why I think I would be the best fit. I don't want clout, money, or prestige. I want respect." At face value, she recognized that her words might have left a lot unsaid, but she didn't go into it. She didn't expect the conversation to last very long now that she'd tipped her hand.

"Loyalty to Prince Khaldun?" she mused, leaning in and feigning an air of intrigue. "What is the Prince up to? We are accountants, not politicians." It was a vast oversimplification and admittedly untrue to a certain degree, but she didn't renege.

Offline Ardeth Kokoris

  • Character Account
    • rose2opal
    • prince
    • Role

      Territory Steward

    • Faction

      Cult of the Snake

    • Territory

      Raej

    • Character Sheet

      [Link]

    • OOC

      Dash

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      45

    • The Scorpion Prince

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Re: Leaving Your Corpse Behind
« Reply #4 on: Oct 13, 17, 06:19:59 PM »
The Scorpion Prince paid only minimal attention to who Asala Meskhenet held in her chamber or her confidence. It was information that was of use, but not as much as the witch herself. She was poised to be a powerful ally and useful tool or an obstacle to be removed. With the pieces moving into place on the board, Ardeth had a keen mind to find which one belonged to whom.

Asala said he could trust Qismet, and to that the Steward flashed her a full smile, the richness of his voice enhanced by the echo of laughter that threaded his words. "I trust you, Lady Meskhenet. If you trust him, then I will acquiese to your judgment on the matter." But he did not miss that she had sent away the old man and brought in a slave that looked to have been recently punished.

Interesting.

With the room shielded he listented intently on her description of her cohort, however general and brief it was. Asala was one of the youngest member of the Council, a former slave besides. Saif Nassor had been her master and was an ambitious man whom others had tried to murder and recently had reclaimed his seat. She was beautiful and she had an excellent sense of manners and politeness. But was her mind sharp enough to be of use?

So far, she had kept his interest. Possible.

Once more that smile returned, warm and amused at once in answer to her self-boosting commentary. She had been serious but lined it with humor, and he appreciated her forthrightedness. "Bias is expected. And I am perfectly comfortable with you selling yourself for the job, Lady Meskhenet. It is one of the reasons I wished to speak to you -- to allow you to campaign for yourself if you desire the position."

Her mentioning that she wanted respect caused Ardeth to nod slowly in understanding, perhaps even appreciation for that point. A former slave, yes, he could see that.

"Wherever there is money there is politics, Lady Meskhenet. There have been those who tried to use the position against Prince Khaldun's agenda; thus why he is seeking a replacement. And as the Merchant Council serves at the desire of the Prince of Raej, it is understandable he is looking for someone who can share his viewpoints on certain key matters."

Now Ardeth slowly reached out for the wine, but not yet the food. His Opal swept over it for poison and once he was satisfied that there was none, he partook of it. A 'hmm' of appreciation came from him, his eyes closing in pleasure at the taste, and he exhaled slowly through his nose with a soft sound of pleasure.

"At the very least.." He opened his dark eyes, focusing them intently upon her own, a smile returning to his bearded face. "I know you have taste."

He set the wine down and then reached for his plate, drawing it into his lap. "Were you free at the time that the former Queen of Raej was killed? What do you feel about how the Territory has changed under her son's guidance? Does it rankle you that a Warlord Prince rules instead of a Queen; even a dual-casted one?"

Ardeth paused and smiled slowly, recognizing that she could sense that line of questioning could be a trap. "This part's not on the test, Lady. And even if you did not aprove, it would not be a disqualifier. I am simply trying to gauge the attitude towards his position."



Offline Asala Meskhenet

  • Character Account
    • yellow2rose
    • witch
    • Role

      Head of Red Moon Houses

    • Faction

      Merchant Council

    • Territory

      Raej

    • Character Sheet

      [Link]

    • OOC

      Starling

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      35

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Re: Leaving Your Corpse Behind
« Reply #5 on: Oct 23, 17, 09:04:35 PM »
Tapping a manicured nail against the rim of her chalice, Asala seemed to chew on the Prince's words. At first, she'd laughed, brows arching and then coming together as her expression sobered some. When she spoke again, her voice wasn't half as playful as it had been. Shifting, she angled herself more toward Ardeth, studying him more intently. "If you actually mean to vet me for the position, Prince Kokoris," her eyes narrowed on him then, her smile turning somewhat incredulous, "well I do desire the position, but I also don't want what I haven't earned."

Did he understand what she meant? It was important to her that none of her achievements could be easily dismissed or taken away. Was it worth explaining? Others would likely be falling over themselves to feed him false narratives regarding their accomplishments. Could she compete, armed only with the truth of her comparatively unproven strengths? Was Prince Kokoris capable of discerning the difference? No matter the case, Asala was prepared to wait. Lunging for the first glimmering chance of distinction could be seen as desperate and honestly, Asala already had well more than she knew what to do with. She would figure it out in enough time, at the right time.

Picking at her dress, she smoothed the gauzy fabric over her knee, idly attentive to her appearance. "So if there must be an underlying agenda in the council, Prince Khaldun simply wants it to be his?" Her eyes had fallen to her dress but lifted again when she tilted her head and waited for Prince Kokoris to outright admit his own bias.

"It's not a matter of honor, really," she explained with a dismissive shrug, looking again toward the untouched plate of food in front of Ardeth. Asala chewed her lower lip considering for a second if she really should be speaking so candidly. Was it better to establish an honest dialogue and set a strong base for future relations or withhold personal details that could later be used against her? Information was power.

"Hmmm, well, I hope you can understand that I'm averse to the idea of being bought, Prince Kokoris." Her eyes settled in the distance for a few beats before she spoke up again. "Perhaps if our views were already in alignment?"

Straightening, Asala peered over the wine glass as she took another thoughtful sip and then wiped her wrist at the side of her mouth.

Ardeth probed with a few directed questions and she settled into silence for another few beats. "I wasn't freed yet, no." Close, but no. What did she feel about how the territory had changed? Not much, apparently, seeing as how much trouble she was having digging up the opinions in question. "My life has only improved since that time. I don't have any right to cast judgment, nor the experience to bolster whatever opinion I might form. Will any of his policies hinder my ambition? If not, I don't see why it matters where his skills lie or what lies between his legs."

"Anyhow, I feel like I'm not acting very grateful for the opportunity to have this conversation with you. I'm confident that I understand what you're looking for, but less certain that I could fill that role to your satisfaction. You're bound to find a much more willing and gracious candidate than I." Raej wouldn't suffer much if a less competent but more accommodating aspirant was chosen. They both knew it.

Wetting her lips, she nodded toward his plate, her eyes near begging him to have something to eat. It wouldn't be so easy to discuss the trading of loyalties if his mouth was full. Perhaps by the time he'd finished a bite or two he would realize that she wasn't keen on the idea of owing anything to anyone. What was gained with ease could be lost with ease.

She meant to have an empire to show when she found her brother again, to show him that it didn't matter where or how she'd spent her young years, she'd still risen above him. Her achievements needed to be earned to stand up to that test, not won in some lot of whoever was the first to pledge their volatile allegiance.

Offline Ardeth Kokoris

  • Character Account
    • rose2opal
    • prince
    • Role

      Territory Steward

    • Faction

      Cult of the Snake

    • Territory

      Raej

    • Character Sheet

      [Link]

    • OOC

      Dash

    • Posts

      45

    • The Scorpion Prince

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Re: Leaving Your Corpse Behind
« Reply #6 on: Nov 02, 17, 02:46:22 PM »
"I am, in fact, vetting you Lady Meskhenet." Ardeth replied with enough of a smile and playfulness in his mien and tone that one could assume he were joking were it not for the fact he sat there now in her office. He relaxed in his posture, his shoulders sliding backward so that he could reach out to take up a piece of food, at last, and slowly consumed it as his eyes turned downward to his plate, then to her to consider her once again.

"I would not say that the Council must only serve the Prince." Ardeth said slowly after he had swallowed back his morsel with another draught of wine. He did not drink deep of the cup, only enough to wash away the meal. "But that it is inclined towards his requests. A healthy partnership -- after all the Council serves at the pleasure of the Prince. It is beholden, but we are not looking for a slave in the seat."

Maybe the words offended her, or pricked her anger. Or maybe she understood his meaning; there was a difference between a thrall and a supplicant. There was a difference between being being bound by a contract and being bound by a Control Ring.

Ardeth ate further after she eyed the food in subtle suggestion that he should enjoy her hospitality. She got her point across, both about Odji and her own role, and Ardeth seemed to consider it as he ate. He did not finish his plate, but he ate about half of it before he set the plate aside, wiped off his hands, and reached for the cup of wine. He held it in both hands without draining more of the glass, and considered her with the full weight of his gaze.

"Prince Khaldun has empowered me to select two considerations to bring to him. He'll decide from there. His concern is one of Landen power and of the consolidation of faith. He wants Raej to continue to prosper despite rumblings from the Landen against our continued supremacy.

And perhaps my old friend does want a supplicant. But I've always found that the best partnerships are formed from those providing equal benefiscience to the other. So."


The Scorpion Prince raised a hand and rolled it at the wrist, gesturing to her with his dark eyebrows lifted in question. "Why you over another? Sell me to this idea of Asala Meskhenet, Head of the Merchant Council. What does she bring that others do not? What does she do for Raej that others cannot?"


Offline Asala Meskhenet

  • Character Account
    • yellow2rose
    • witch
    • Role

      Head of Red Moon Houses

    • Faction

      Merchant Council

    • Territory

      Raej

    • Character Sheet

      [Link]

    • OOC

      Starling

    • Posts

      35

    • View Profile
Re: Leaving Your Corpse Behind
« Reply #7 on: Nov 06, 17, 01:56:43 AM »
He was serious. Asala slowly settled back into her chair, becoming thoughtful. It was easier to envision herself taking the promotion when she hadn't been taking him seriously. There was a lot to consider. Not everyone respected the work that she put into carrying out her duties. Some still thought that she could not be a competent administrator, not with her extensive and somewhat recent history as a slave. She'd only heard rumors. If they were true, it didn't matter that she was qualified for any position, much less as the Head of the Merchant Council. She would be opposed in secret, undermined, and hindered. It was conjecture, but she'd not come so far by expecting the best in people.

In fact, Asala had done rather well despite her lack of reliable connections. She knew people, but none that she would trust to catch her if she started to fall. That was why she owned slaves, kept people in debt to her, and did her damn job--well. These things were her best insurances. Staying low to the ground and minding her own business had also proven beneficial. Saif, well, he was too recently returned from the Abyss for her be sure where they stood.

Accepting the role would earn her more attention and visibility, and potentially a few dissenters who might assume that the Head of Red Moon Houses was uniquely qualified to suck or fuck her way to whatever she wanted. She didn't care what people thought on a personal level, but as far as business and success were concerned, she knew that spiteful people could be remarkably resourceful. Oddly enough, she'd learned that lesson as a slave. It was better to move slowly than to risk unwanted attention.

Once Ardeth finally had something to eat, Asala was too curious to care about his stomach. Despite the handful of reasons she'd given him to not consider her, he moved forward as though she'd not been heard. Finding it unlikely that the esteemed Prince had any vested interest in selecting her specifically, she decided that the mere presence of interest at all was dubious. The Steward of Raej was far too important to making these calls himself. He did indicate the need for secrecy, however, which would explain why he manned the task himself. Still, were there not enough sycophants in his pocket, people willing to claw her eyes out to have what he offered? She liked her eyes.

But Ardeth had indicated that he was only offering Asala the opportunity to have the opportunity to be considered for the position. Perhaps he'd already chosen his preferred candidate and needed an unlikely competitor to stand in, all but ensuring the success of his plant. Regardless, Prince Kokoris wasn't taking no for an answer.

Instead of calling Qismat to refill her wine, Asala rose to do so herself. The sense that she was being dressed as prey made her restless. Her slave cast her a glance, but she didn't acknowledge him. She crossed directly to the bar in the corner of the room, loose fabric fluttering about her legs as she moved. Lifting one crystal decanter after another, she located her favorite and filled her glass.

"Me," she pronounced, "because I don't care what the politics are."

Unless Ardeth peered around the side of his chair, he wouldn't be able to see her at the bar but she was already returning with her glass in one hand and the bottle in the other. No matter how much was left in his glass, she'd refill it and then her own before stopping up the bottle and setting it down. Not settling back into her chair, she remained standing, leaning against its tall back.

"But that's not the type of candidate you're looking for, is it?" She didn't say it in a challenging way; she'd be a fool to be rude to him. It simply fell off of her tongue as her demeanor again softened and turned introspective.

"It's true that I mean to keep climbing." With a touch of a smile, Asala bit her lip, though it didn't dull the hint of mischief there as intended. She turned her cheek against her shoulder and looked to Ardeth. "I have something to prove." Glancing down at the wine that swirled in her glass, she mused quietly. "But I'm in not in a hurry, and I'm unwilling to commit besides. A shrewd manager understands the risks before taking them."

Offline Ardeth Kokoris

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Re: Leaving Your Corpse Behind
« Reply #8 on: Nov 11, 17, 01:45:08 PM »
Ardeth's dark eyes watched Asala lift herself up and move to pour her own wine. He wondered if there was a rise of nervous energy that needed an outlet at that moment, given the topic and its subtle shifts in tone. He had caught her unprepared and given the hour and the manner in which he had approached here no doubt it was concerning. But his eyes did not fully follow her once she moved out of his immediate eyesight. He took the break to eat and drink, and when she returned to restore volume to his cup he bowed his head in appreciation to her. "My thanks."

When she returned to his eyesight and stated that her contempt for the politics of the position was a selling point, it brought a grin that slowly spread onto his face; small to blooming in warmth and appreciation framed by dark hair. "Well. That is certainly different from the others. But the politics sometimes are something to be concerned with.

Was not your mentor the target of several assassination attempts? He feigned his own death to avoid them for a time. Politics can get one killed, Lady Meskhenet. Thus why it is important to always pay attention to them, even if you've no mind to let them govern your decisions.

What I am looking for?"
Ardeth lowered his cup and steepled his fingers as he thought the best way to convey his desired attributes. "Intelligence. Ambition. Awareness. And maybe a touch of shrewdness. I want an investment in the position; someone who will pay dividends on the opportunity for years to come. We've had enough cloak and dagger close to the Court.

I want Raej to prosper. Not just the Court and the Council, but all those beneath it that we govern.

And perhaps you bring those attributes. Your work and your attitude, so far, has indicated you have them. But I need someone who will be strong in their own right."
He paused, tapping the top of his cup as he pointed it and his controlling hand toward her, his eyes focused on his point. "And not someone's pawn."

He figured she would pick up his meaning. He had no desire to be rude to her, especially in her own home.

"To take the position would be to invite competition and jealousy. Others would prize what you have; more than they do now. Your influence, wealth, and power would greatly expand, but so too would your pool of enemies. There's always someone willing to settle a rivalry with a dagger rather than a word."

He drew his hands together and his eyebrows lifted slowly in question, his mien more friendly and saleslike than the gentle, kind aloofness he'd given thus far. "Do you wish to be considered for the position?"


Offline Asala Meskhenet

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Re: Leaving Your Corpse Behind
« Reply #9 on: Nov 20, 17, 01:19:16 AM »
There was nothing outright threatening about Prince Kokoris. Thus far he had been a pleasant and, generally speaking, forthcoming guest. He was more polite than protocol or any other standard prescribed. Ardeth outranked Asala in every aspect except that he was a male in a traditionally matriarchal society... but Raej was no longer run by a woman and so such things didn't mean as much in the desert Territory.

Asala chuckled quietly when Saif's own dealings with politics came up. Shaking her head, she awed at the concept of having that many hidden enemies and then surviving them nevertheless. It only cemented the idea that she wasn't prepared for that level of immersion. Ardeth went on to say that it was important to pay attention, and Asala smiled prettily in response. She was content, for now, to do so from the outside looking in. The inside sounded like a lawless arena and she would hate to be confused as an aggressor. Direct action would not likely ever be a strong suit for the freed slave. She didn't need to be seen as a threat.

Prince Kokoris spoke well, his words provoking, even to a woman who'd all but made up her mind. He made the inherent danger sound like adventurous sport. And she could win at it. Even the way that he spoke of the adversity that may arise made Asala romanticize it. Competition? She could subdue it. Jealousy? Who wouldn't be jealous? Enemies? Could she set a new record with the numbers she amassed? He was appealing to her desire to achieve, whether he did it on purpose or not. Asala couldn't deny the allure of such an opportunity, she never had since he'd brought it up, but nothing changed that what he proposed was a gamble at best.

"You flatter me, Prince. The halls of my home have never known a more esteemed guest. I am honored by your visit, more so by your purpose." Pausing, she straightened, mulling over how to word what she meant to say next.

"With thanks," she began slowly, "It's not a role I would like to attempt just yet. Still..." Biting her lip, Asala shook her head again, this time coming around her chair and leaning against her desk so that Prince Kokoris could see her more plainly.

"Well, there's no sense confusing you with coy phrases. If it makes sense for you to support one candidate, in particular, I would be happy to sit as the other, inferior, and unlikely choice." Despite Asala's reservations, Ardeth seemed eager to convince her to apply. Though he'd not asked her to do so, turning down the opportunity still felt like telling him no--and she had no desire to tell a man like him no. Perhaps he only needed a body.

"One day I may be willing, and on that day I would hope to have your vote. So if there is anything I can do to help you in whatever your purpose is, Prince, please ask."

It was her first foray into the kind of politics he had described. A request for the purposeful exchange of favors. It was the equivalent of dipping her toe into the river where others fought the current and some drowned--hardly a courageous act. Still, with no desire or need to reach the other shore quickly, it made more sense to Asala to build a bridge, even if one brick at a time.

Offline Ardeth Kokoris

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Re: Leaving Your Corpse Behind
« Reply #10 on: Nov 27, 17, 05:40:37 PM »
"That is very kind of you." Ardeth slowly replied to her offer of being the sacrificial candidate in the politics of the situation. His smile became quite broad, full of amusement as his eyes twinkled with a shining light. "But unnecessary. I only intend to put forth qualified and interested candidates for consideration. My foremost interest is a prosperous Raej, and such will not come except by promoting the fittest."

The Steward rolled his hand toward her, indicating her with the fingers that were unclasped by his the scorpion. "And I understand your trepidation. I do not think less of you for the refusal of the offer. You are still an invaluable asset to us as the Head of the Red Moon Houses. They serve a great benefit to this Territory, and if anything I would like to assist you in making certain that your guests are both well treated and behave appropriately. It is as much a needed set of facilities as the temples that our High Priestess seeks to fortify."

Slowly Ardeth returned his fingers to the cup of wine before him. He did not continue to drink just yet, but he held the cup hostage for future intent. "Perhaps I can be of assistance to you. To be one of your mentors for the coming years. Who's to say that your position could not grow in value, or that you would become an ideal candidate for the eventual replacement of the Merchant Council's highest seat?

No political position lasts forever. I'm not saying I intend for whoever will take the seat to have a short career, but I am cogniscent of trends and that you are young and intelligent. It would seem a great waste, to me, to not provide you additional resources should my assistance be of interest."


Ardeth paused, allowing her to respond and consider his proposition -- both in the personal and in the professional field. He slowly drank, consumed it with the consideration of enjoying its taste, then rose to refill his cup. On his feet, he returned his gaze to her.

"I could use more eyes and ears in your Houses. There are those who are willing to speak more to a Red Moon worker than any other possibly spy. If you could share access, or at least provide a link, then I would be most appreciative."

His words slowed, a more low, alluring tilt entered his voice. "If we can agree on an equitable arrangement?"


Offline Asala Meskhenet

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Re: Leaving Your Corpse Behind
« Reply #11 on: Nov 30, 17, 09:09:35 PM »
That Ardeth wasn't dismayed at her response helped to ease the built-up tension in her form. He could very well be hiding any amount of displeasure from her, but she wouldn't be able to help that even if he was. So for now, his pleasant mien and lack of rebuke suited Asala just fine. She nodded when he stated that her small sacrifice would be unnecessary. Better to know that she wouldn't be called to put on her best convincing face in front of the ruler of everything she knew. That would have been an interesting conflict of interests. Wanting to stay in one powerful man's good graces while still somewhat lying to another. Who was more powerful between them? Though Odji ruled Raej, she wondered who held more sway in the Territory. Clearly, Odji had chosen his Steward well.

Gripping the edge of the desk, Asala idly tested the finish beneath her fingertips while Ardeth turned the conversation toward her current role. She lifted a thin brow when he mentioned assisting her, again offering a nearly demure smile, an odd fixture on the face of the woman who oversaw some of the least innocent business in the land.

Sensing that Prince Kokoris had more than just that much to say, she settled in to listen to his unofficial proposal. It sounded as though he'd understood her offer to assist each other. It was a bold idea to submit coming from a woman who so far didn't have very much to bring to the table. Unless he had some specific plot for the Red Moon Houses in the land to benefit him, she wasn't likely to be a directly useful asset to him. But in time, maybe? The offer was there. Sometimes it was useful to play the long game. It was only a few years ago that she was a slave with no personal property, income, or anything to call her own. Patience applied to discipline and enthusiasm for the task seemed to be the perfect recipe for success as far as Asala was concerned.

Again, the conversation turned back to what Asala could become, and she enjoyed the warmth of those words as they worked their way through her. Eventually, yes. Under the right conditions, she would love to continue to rise among the ranks. With the wine finally starting to tingle upon her lips, Asala figured she could listen to Ardeth catalog all of the different potential opportunities for the rest of the evening.

"Mentor," she purred. Hearing the sound of her sensual voice surprised her some and she pressed fingers to her lips, giggling quietly for a moment. Mentor, in her world, was just another word that suggested success. Moreover, a mentor wasn't just an ally, it was an experienced soul who had tred the same paths before, and knew the way through Raej in the dark. Learning from someone who had already been there only meant that her path would be a faster track than even they had walked. Asala disliked the idea of a shortcut, but unlike apparently much of the world, she was glad to learn from the mistakes of others. The only thing she worried about was taking too much of what she was taught for granted. The world changed frequently and that didn't account for potential deceit in the way that she was to be reared. Still, knowing the chance of these dangers was enough to put her apprehensions to sleep. It was better to have these conveniences than to go without completely.

"Again, Prince, I am flattered and honored. I would be a fool to turn down the prospect of your guidance." Truly, it was unexpected. Were she him, she didn't believe that she would have made the offer, but then, she knew so little about Prince Kokoris or his goals. It would be an exercise in futility to attempt to decipher any of them, especially before returning a favorable response.

His assumption of the potential information available in the houses was spot on. This wasn't a shock. Though he didn't work with them as directly as she did, she expected that the Steward of Raej was well aware of potential sources of required intelligence. Really, she was surprised she'd not had any requests for such information before now. Perhaps it was just a matter of Ardeth being the first one confident enough to ask. She was a newer face at the table after all. No one knew much about her at least as far as she was aware. But Ardeth's position and Caste made him very well equipped to have done some digging. Asala's smile warmed when she considered that he might have spent any amount of time looking into her before he'd thought to pay this visit.

At this point, Asala had to be careful with her pride. The wine had a subtle effect there but coupled with the thought that she'd been paid any mind at all and that Ardeth thought she could be someone important, well all these things together made it important that she remain grounded. Asala was not one accustomed to being noticed at all, though the notion was quite enjoyable. Setting her wine glass aside, she decided that she was high enough on herself for the moment.

"I'm not in a position to make the first offer, Prince Kokoris," she admitted freely. "I have comparably less to offer than you. Tell me what arrangement strikes you and we can barter from there. I am long on potential, this I know and readily admit whether it makes me a prideful creature or not--but it doesn't change that I have little to offer in the present. If I can assist your gathering efforts within the houses, simply direct my search and I think I can turn up the sort of knowledge you seek out."

Offline Ardeth Kokoris

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Re: Leaving Your Corpse Behind
« Reply #12 on: Dec 15, 17, 04:24:17 PM »
"A fool, or perhaps just wary of generosity." Ardeth slowly smiled at her as she still held the cup in hand. "The latter is more of a mark of wisdom." She took another draught of wine, and as she did Ardeth reached to the power of the Opal beyond her perception to wrap subtle seduction tendrils through her form. Not enough to make her a bitch in heat, but certainly enough to make that last drink of wine make her feel just a bit warmer, just a bit better, just a bit more inclined to enjoying his company and consider him beyond just status and potential advancement.

"Mentorship is a benefit for more than just the student, Lady Meskhenet." The Steward's reply was smooth as he retained his dark smile, his eyes glittered with amusement like diamonds in coal as he looked up at her form. She had set aside the wine, but he let the effect of his Craft linger, just enough to let her body acclimate and perhaps leave that particular stove warm after the fire had been unlit. "It is one thing to have an ally, another to guide a student to prominence. One is an assumption of competence, the latter is a guarantee. Augmenting your experience is a benefit to myself, and the Territory as a whole."

Ardeth eased the power of his Jewel, like slowly closing the tap to a stream of water, he made it but a trickle, and his eyes focused on hers. "Let us consider this, as a concrete idea: Twice a week I will come to your office and provide a regimen of lessons. Arithmetic, History, Languages, a proper education that you were denied before your freedom. Lessons in Craft and politics, and portfolios of the other Merchant Council and other rivals.

In return, you field me reports of any and all deals with Landen or those who speak of our jeweless citizens. Or, if you find particularly interesting information regarding Lady Syeira, her court, or Prince Kokoris, I would like those reports as well."


He slowly gestured toward her, his palm raised up, his fingers a web drawing her in. "Is that acceptable, Lady Meskhenet?"


Offline Asala Meskhenet

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Re: Leaving Your Corpse Behind
« Reply #13 on: Jan 07, 18, 10:55:44 PM »
Asala hummed softly, lashes falling as she tilted her head toward a shoulder. She was glad that Prince Kokoris seemed to have found an appreciation for her lack of outright enthusiasm and that he wasn't offended by her stance. He furthered her pride by suggesting that wisdom might have guided her decisions. She liked to believe so. It was nice to be recognized for something that others might view as simple discord. It also meant that Ardeth was a discerning man, capable of seeing beneath what was readily apparent. This alone would have put her more at ease around him, but it wasn't the only sense that had caused her to warm to the Steward.

He was a strange man to her. The two of them had never taken an opportunity to get to know each other. There had never been a need. Having seen it happening all around her, Asala had decided against rubbing shoulders with the powers in Raej just for the sake of doing so. That sort of grasping was desperate; even she could see it from her lesser position. Desperation was a weakness and weakness drew predators like carrion. She didn't need that sort of hindrance. Patience had always been a strong suit of hers and she was glad that it appeared to be paying off.

For some reason apart from his status in Raej, Asala realized that she had an inclination to want Prince Kokoris to think well of her. It wasn't a common theme for her to care much what others thought of her, not in general at least. Having spent the majority of her life thus far as a slave, she'd been forced to give up whatever it was that made people want to be looked on favorably by others just for the sake of esteem. Was it the wine? Her brews were strong on account of the Blood needing more robust drinks to inebriate them, but she'd not had much more to drink than she might on a usual night. Either way, she found herself looking at Ardeth in a new light.

For the first time, she noted that he was a handsome man. She would have said so had she been asked any time prior to now but done so without really thinking. It wasn't the sort of thing that she tended to notice. Most of the Blood that she dealt with were attractive types. So what was it about Ardeth that drew her in? Power had always piqued her interest, so there was that, but there was more still. Perhaps the answer was in the relationship that he suggested, this mentorship. Asala did particularly well as a student under a firm master. His mention of prominence plucked at all the right strings as well.

Finding herself grateful, Asala thought it natural that she might suddenly want to reward Ardeth with something of a sexual nature. The ideas that he proposed were certainly tantalizing. Still, she was reluctant to act on such urges. For all she knew, Ardeth wasn't remotely interested in the freed slave turned cunning businesswoman types, lovely or not. She'd not insult his options by thinking that she was among the best of them when it came to bodies he might want to bend over a desk. The thought was there, however, leaving her rather inclined to resond positively.

Uncrossing her legs, Asala found it helpful to shift into a position that didn't put as much pressure between them. Prince Kokoris might find it odd if he noticed that she was suddenly finding herself aroused by his presence. It usually took more than business talk to do so. Reigning in her thoughts, she averted her attention from how nice it might be to ride that handsome face and brought it back to what he was actually saying.

As presented, Prince Kokoris would be making a heavy investment into the midgrade member of Raej's Merchant Council. "That's a lot of effort on your behalf," she noted curiously, crossing her arms over her chest, but immediately thinking better of it and lowering them back to the edge of the desk. "It doesn't sound like a fair exchange for you."

Maybe she was underestimating the worth of the information that he was asking her to procure. She didn't think it could amount to too much. Tidbits were all she figured she would be able to glean. It would be on him to piece anything together and analyze any further meaning. Still, twice a week? Lessons on all the things she'd never been able to study? It'd give her quite a leg up in the world. What if he didn't find what he was looking for? What if his investment failed?

"You're not telling me everything, are you?" she asked, thankful that her thoughts seemed to return easy enough to the topic at hand. He didn't need to tell her everything. She could still do as asked, it just seemed to be rather unfair to him to put in all that work for the caliber of information that she figured she'd be able to uncover for him.

Deals with the Landen? Only fools would unearth those sort of secrets to a bedmate, but Raej was full of fools. Asala idly wondered how Lady Syeira figured into Prince Kokoris' plots, but she didn't ask. It wasn't her place to know what he was working toward. Her only concern was what she had to lose if they embarked on this journey together and it didn't pan out the way he expected or if things didn't go as planned.

Offline Ardeth Kokoris

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Re: Leaving Your Corpse Behind
« Reply #14 on: Jan 09, 18, 11:51:42 AM »
"Most large return investments require an onus of faith. I do not expect you to be able to provide me a large benefit for some time, but having you as a student could provide a powerful ally for years to come. Probably not in a few months, but I plan to live a long life and help you do the same."

Ardeth's mouth widened into a slow, leonine smile behind his black goatee. "I'm patient. I can wait."

He felt the subtle shift in the air, watched as her body responded to the subtle craft. He reached another tendril around her, curled it inside her, found the flame and fanned it. A slow heat, not enough to set her to boiling. Rising from his seat, he stood now so as to be on equal footing with her. Slowly he stepped toward her and closed the distance between them. His movements were their own seduction as his eyes focused on hers and locked upon them as a predator might stalking toward its prey. The gap between them shrinked to just a couple feet now. He could easily reach her now; touch her, grab her, push her against her desk, any number of scenarios were now within reach.

"I believe you are worth the effort, Asala." He used her first name for the first time, and laced the word with his Craft. It was its own pleasure, to hear him say her name in that low rumble that he did.

He tilted his head, his eyes washing across her face and neck, as if he were looking for the artery in her throat; the hunter looking for the kill. His dark eyes moved back up to hers, then. A focused, intense stare once more centered on her.

"No. I am not telling you everything, yet."

His hand slowly reached out to take hers, breaching that barrier of space between them, and lifted the hand up toward his face.

"But in time, perhaps." He leaned down to place a kiss upon her knuckles, his eyes closing to half lids as he took in the slow scent of her perfume and her skin. The tendril rolled around down her arm, into her torso and down into her gut, then slowly began to fade as he drew his arm up. It would leave only the lingering remnants -- the fire either grown or would begin to diminish on its own after that spike of warmth.

"Thank you for your hospitality." He offered with a smile as he lowered her hand and released it back into her custody. "I will be taking up a great deal of your time in the weeks to come. I should be less greedy with it, tonight, and let you return to your business."

He gestured to the door, but didn't completely turn from her. "With your leave, Lady?"


Offline Asala Meskhenet

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Re: Leaving Your Corpse Behind
« Reply #15 on: Jan 18, 18, 04:17:28 AM »
There was something in Prince Kokoris' ease that intrigued Asala. He spoke to her in a way that she imagined true friends might speak to each other. Like many of the things she wouldn't act on, she didn't intend to give the impression that she thought so. She did find it curious though and found herself wondering if she'd ever develop that sort of relationship with anyone. It wasn't that she needed that kind of camaraderie. Her slaves were kind to her and fulfilled the desire to be doted upon well enough. Truly, she didn't know that she wanted to exist among those she considered her equals. Those above her either led or inspired her and those beneath her filled every other need. What good was an equal? Nevertheless, Ardeth was her better, at least for now.

At face value, his idea seemed generous enough that apart from being skeptical, Asala was inclined to think better of him for presenting it--something she might have considered even without the use of his yet undetected Craft. Her skepticism was all that kept her from accepting the deal with open arms, though she still meant to accept.

Again, Prince Kokoris reached out with his Craft and again Asala found herself uncharacteristically drawn to him. At this point, the only reason that she didn't immediately suspect Craft use was because of the parallels that her mind was drawing to another mentor in her life and the seductive role that he played in her life. It didn't escape her that she might have a kink for a more subtle version of the master and slave relationship, as perverse as that was considering her years trading hands under various owners.

It was odd that she felt so enticed, but in her mind, there was a very likely reason for it. Ardeth only honed the edge of that tricky sword when he looked at her so deviously and closed much of the distance between them. Reaching up, Asala wrapped fingers around a gold necklace and bit her lip. Was he teasing her on purpose? By now, he had to sense her reaction and she already looked a fool. The sound of her name caused a shamefully delicious shiver to travel her spine. For the first time, she was aware of the beating of her heart, feeling the soft thrum in her throat as easily as in her chest. Why was it so enchanting to be told that he was purposefully keeping things from her?

Asala visibly startled when he reached for her. It wasn't terror that spurred her, simply the nearing movement at all. Giving a quiet gasp, her eyes widened and then she laughed in spite of herself. The added humor didn't stop her from flushing when she felt Ardeth's hand slip against hers and further when he kissed her knuckles. Pulling herself away from the moment, she wondered what a mess she must seem, so easily roused, so young and simple, effortlessly distracted. Luckily whatever impression she'd made prior to now seemed to stand.

"Prince Kokoris," she breathed, half a question as to his extraordinary effect on her. For the love of Darkness, she was aroused!

Blinking, Asala's heart skipped a beat. Ardeth lowered her hand and she jerked it a little too quickly back to her chest. Her heart beat faster when, for the first time, she wondered at this rather sudden blush of lust. If he had used Craft on her, she would be more ashamed even than before with her demure display. Head of the Red Moon Houses indeed!

Staring after him as he withdrew, she didn't hide the question in her eyes. "You're quite welcome," she replied distantly, drawing up her other hand to pet the one he'd kissed.

Straightening, Asala nodded, finding interest in some paper at the edge of her desk in order to give herself a reason to move beyond it. Putting that corner between she and Ardeth seemed to help some, though it was only the lessening of his Craft that gave this illusion.

"Please keep me informed," she answered, more stiffly than she might have only a minute ago. There was no bite in her words, only that latent suspicion. "I'll be sure to make myself available."

She nodded when he kindly requested her leave. "Of course, Prince Kokoris. I look forward to seeing you again."

With that, she lifted a hand toward the door and nodded for Qismat to tend it. As eager as she felt for Ardeth to stay and tend to her, she was equally as eager to let him leave her to her questions. She wasn't in a state to speak them aloud, too ashamed even at the implication that she'd been puppeted by Craft. Would Prince Kokoris do such a thing?

It was merely her pride that was wounded, not some moral code. She certainly didn't have an aversion to things of a sexual nature. Obviously. She merely liked to believe that she was capable of putting business above basic urges and the two had, for a moment, rather seamlessly blended into one very alluring mindset.

Asala's breath didn't return to normal until Ardeth had been escorted from the room. Her heartbeat followed suit once she could no longer sense him in her home. They were both racing again a few minutes later, however, when Qismat returned and she called him to bend her over her desk and rid her of those too-easily stirred passions.