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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: Mail bag / Male bag  (Read 153 times)

Description: Attn: Saiph

Offline Liam Noor

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Mail bag / Male bag
« on: Oct 08, 17, 03:47:29 PM »
Liam had, as promised, been given a room at the palace, and what a room it was - draped with silks, the feather mattress sheeted in fine cottons, with a west-facing window that caught the late afternoon sun's warm rays and overlooked Kemet's bustling hive of markets and temples. He had been to see Al-Nasrim - another one of those curious lady Lords - and relayed what there was to know about Renard. The search had begun, and he would only need to wait for it to pay dividends.

In the meanwhile, he had a Queen to ingratiate himself to. In a year or two's time, Saiph would wear a descent Jewel dark enough to put all of Chaillot on edge. Loathe as he was to pander to Aristos, their psychic bond had already endeared the girl to him - and Liam knew where his bread was buttered.

Earlier in the day, Saiph had received a letter that, being blind, she'd needed read to her. Liam was the closest at hand. The text had been above his understanding, wrapped in the flowery language Aristos used when they were playing at being civilized and referring to events of which he had no knowledge -  but as he'd read, the air had grown colder and colder, until his fingers shook to hold the parchment and Saiph grew so irate as to throw a goblet across the room and scream for him to leave.

He'd retreated to his room after that and spent the afternoon engrossed in a novel he'd found lying about, scandalous prose about a young noblewoman's fall from grace and into a life of sexual depravity. Someone in the castle had... peculiar tastes. But it passed the time well enough.

The sun had nearly sunk below the dunes by the time someone sent for him. Liam hurriedly shoved the book beneath his pillow. "Enter?" he called, and the door swung open to reveal Lord Fairuz.

"Lady Al-Kaid sends for you, Lord Noor," she said, and Liam rose to his feet.

"Does she, now?" he asked, and he could have sworn the Warder rolled her eyes before gesturing for him to follow.

Offline Saiph al-Kaid

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Re: Mail bag / Male bag
« Reply #1 on: Oct 08, 17, 04:08:30 PM »
Saiph had already finished her letter and sent Lady Gulhar away. Now she was pacing, still angry, but starting to come down from it. Her actions towards Liam had been cruel, the actions of the sort of Queen she had no desire to be. So she sent for him, mostly because she didn't actually know where he was staying yet, and when Fairuz showed him in she performed a curtsey of the proper depth. "I am sorry for my temper earlier," she said. "There is no excuse."

There was. The Sabbah had taken everything from her, and Elenor Lirion--neither name a Pruulian one--thought to make that up to her with an offer of friendship, of advice? It was fitting that no Pruulian Queen would rule a tribe of horrors. It was good and just. But she found she hated that anyone would lower themselves to rule monsters, that someone would give her Gift to quell the sandworms that healing might be done and safety might be found. The Sabbah didn't deserve safety or justice, and would not until the Price for the harm that had come to her Errai and her Ghanima had been paid.

"I had hoped you might eat with me, and forgive me for my trespass." The formal mask of the Queen was the one she wore. She had been excited when she received the letter, red-faced with anger by the time he had reached the signature. "It was poorly done of me."

She still hadn't risen out of her deep curtsey.








Offline Liam Noor

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Re: Mail bag / Male bag
« Reply #2 on: Oct 08, 17, 04:27:54 PM »
To be honest, Liam had thought nothing of her outburst - it had clearly been all due to the letter and no fault of his. Still, if it eased her heart to apologize, who was he to stop her? "I accept your apology, Queenling," he said cooly, "but so long as your anger is righteous, there's not reason not to express it. Now, I'm no Aristo myself - but it doesn't take a nobleman to spy condescension wearing politeness's robes."

There was a lesson here, he thought, if she'd be willing to learn it. Liam's earliest playmates had taught him the value of retribution.

There was a table now where there hadn't been one before, low to the ground in the local style and set with a soup course. "It would be my honor to join you for dinner," he said, and offered a hand to her. The curtsey was getting to be overly long, especially for what he considered a wholly unnecessary apology. "Please, let's sit."

So he did, getting himself settled on the cushions and waiting for her to do the same.

"My mother was - and is, I suppose - a servant to a wealthy family," he said, lifting a carafe from the table and leaning forward to pour her a glass of water. "I used to play with their little darlings. Proper children with good clothes and nice toys who never wanted for anything. Barbarians dressed in bows and sailor suits and saddle shoes who looked down on me for wearing their hand-me downs."

He filled his own glass.

"I do not know who your letter-writer was, but she sounded like one of those little monsters all grown up."

Offline Saiph al-Kaid

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Re: Mail bag / Male bag
« Reply #3 on: Oct 08, 17, 05:39:05 PM »
Saiph took her seat once her apology was accepted, and when she heard two glasses of water poured reached for her own. The way her table was set was very particular, so she always knew precisely where an instrument was. As yet, Syeira hadn't required her to sit in at any dinners of state; Saiph was sure the day would come, and on that day she'd likely sit to Iskander's left, and he would be responsible for showing her the location of each item. Saiph was embarrassed without even knowing that the day would come for certain.

"Saddle shoes," she asked, her mind supplying the image of the light saddle which she'd once put on Grand Prince as footwear. It didn't seem particularly realistic to wear, or even very comfort. Chaillot was a strange place. "I'm unfamiliar with the concept." But it didn't much matter. She sipped her soup from the bowl, as was polite.

Still, he turned back to the letter, and she scowled, baring her teeth at nothing in particular. "She rules a clan of monsters and she thinks to offer me Queenly advice and companionship! Lady Syeira and the Queens under her at her District Courts are three times the Queenly companions any cunt who would lower herself to rule the Sabbah could ever be. As if an apology will repair my Errai's Jewels! Or return my sight! Or bring my Ghanima back to me! She supports the rule of the Mineborn, does she?" Saiph tipped her head back and took a sharp breath inward, trying to calm herself. Her temper burned hot, this time, the temperature remained the same, but she still blinked the tears back quickly.

"As if I were a child," said Saiph. "I presided over the murders of thousands when I was fourteen! When Lady Lirion was fourteen, she likely had her fingers up her--" She cut herself off and closed her eyes, the hand which rested on the table top curled into a white-knuckled fist. "I have ruled an entire Territory. I gave up my sight to acquire the spell for the Rains. How dare she condescend to me?"








Offline Liam Noor

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Re: Mail bag / Male bag
« Reply #4 on: Oct 08, 17, 06:10:52 PM »
Liam snorted into his water, realizing that to one of Saiph's background, having no concept of saddle shoes likely yielded an entirely different image. "They're... brogues?"

Saiph's expression suggested she did not know that word, either.

"They're shoes," said Liam, "made of leather, with laces up the front, that cover the entire foot. And the leather is two-toned in sort of a... saddle pattern. Children in Chaillot wear them as a sign of their parents having too much coin and not enough to spend it on."

That seemed to satisfy Saiph.

Following her cue, he lifted his bowl and sipped his soup as she launched into a rant about things that Liam did not understand but was certainly interested to know more about. On first meeting, he'd assumed she was soft. Now, his eyes were opened and he could see she was anything but. They were better matched than met the eye.

He set the bowl down, licked his lips, and leaned forward on his elbow.

"Saiph," said Liam, "this Lady Lirion. She's a foreigner. A stranger to your lands and your customs. She sees only a Queenless clan and an opportunity for power. In Chaillot, we have a saying - lie with the hogs, give birth to a farrow. If she wants to lower herself - there is no reason to stop her."

(He'd never said it was a very polite saying.)

"You owe this girl nothing," he said. "Let her self-destruct on her own misplaced ambition. On her greed."

He smiled mischievously, though Saiph couldn't see it, and that mischief snuck into his voice when he next spoke: "Tell me - have you sent her your reply yet?"

Offline Saiph al-Kaid

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Re: Mail bag / Male bag
« Reply #5 on: Oct 08, 17, 06:31:37 PM »
Ah. They still weren't exactly attractive shoes to imagine, but Saiph nodded her head. She doubted he was being entirely truthful... shoes made of two-color leather to show how one's mother and father made too many marks a year. It sounded fantastical. Also, shoes with laces sounded simply impractical. Her shoes slipped on and off. Even her riding boots... Oh, she supposed those laced. Hm. Miserably, she thought again of Grand Prince, her jinan sand-stallion. He served Ghanima better, she was sure. Here in Raej, they tended to ride on the shoulders of the pall-bearers.

She listened to Liam as he spoke, though her cool fruit soup remained untouched beyond that first sip. "That is disgusting," she said, but her miserable countenance had broken with an upward twitch of her lips. It helped to hear someone agree with her, to be angry without a reminder that it was unseemly for a Mother to feel such bile in her heart. Letting Elenor Lirion self-destruct sounded like just the thing for Saiph, but she kind of wanted to help that along. The Sabbah deserved no Queen and no Voice. She wished she'd been harsher, but no one had thought that Adramelech al-Sabbah would go so far as he had.

"I did," she sighed, "Lady Gulhar came to see why I had shattered a teacup, and wanted to take the letter down before I--" she made air quotes "--got myself any further riled. I think she made me seem much less angry than I was, and certainly she cut out all the swearing I did. Most likely." She leaned back as their bowls were cleared and replaced with a meat course.

Saiph closed her eyes after the first bite of lamb. "I'm still so angry. I know I shouldn't be. The woman is only attempting to ensure the livelihood of her people, but so many of them don't deserve it. I should have executed the entire tribe when I had the chance."








Offline Liam Noor

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Re: Mail bag / Male bag
« Reply #6 on: Oct 08, 17, 06:49:22 PM »
That is disgusting, said Saiph, and Liam grinned wickedly. She'd smiled, just a little bit, and so he knew he was on the right path with her. Lady Gulhar's actions sounded like damage control to him, and there was, of course, a time and a place for that. Diplomacy had to be met with diplomacy.

But it would do nothing to release Saiph's righteous fury.

"What do you mean, you shouldn't be?" asked Liam, lifting his fork. His first order of business, he decided, would be to break Saiph of the notion that there were certain ways she had to behave. Here was a young woman having an ordinary emotional reaction - and it had been drilled into her head that that reaction was somehow improper. Like, what the fuck.

He continued, "They're not even her people, from the sounds of it. If she rules them, it's not a position she came by honestly. You're angry that some foreigner bitch is sticking her nose in your business when she doesn't know even half the history involved, and that strikes me as perfectly reasonable."

He sliced his lamb, perhaps more forcefully than necessary. "If I was in your position, Queenling, I would be furious."

Popping a piece of meat into his mouth, Liam chewed thoughtfully, and said, "What do you say we enjoy this wonderful meal that's been prepared for us, and then I can take a letter for you that I promise I won't edit."

Offline Saiph al-Kaid

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Re: Mail bag / Male bag
« Reply #7 on: Oct 08, 17, 07:24:20 PM »
"I'm the Mother," said Saiph. "I don't rule in Pruul any longer, it's true, but I am what I am. No one can rule in Pruul except a Priestess Queen, because only a Priestess Queen can properly combine the caste-arts of Priestess and Queen to bring rain to Pruul. A Black Widow Priestess Queen, like myself, takes precedence over any other Priestess Queen in the Territory. When I was born, Chani al-Tabur was very old, and she died on the blade of her own Grand Prince. I was always going to be the Queen of Pruul. That I got to have any kind of a childhood at all was simply... luck."

She spoke between bites of lamb and scoops of fragrantly spiced rice. "I couldn't be a child, you see? They all knew what I was but I had to be something supernatural, a heroine like from the stories. Someone who had come to free them from the iron fist of men like Qasim al-Shibd and Jabbar al-Fakhouri. An all-loving Mother who would deal harshly with those who would harm them. I had to be like Mother Night herself, so none of them would dare try to hurt me.

"I was watched constantly. They never let me be alone unless I snuck away. If Errai, my escort, wasn't with me, one of the harem that protected me would be there. If I couldn't see them, they would be sight-shielded. Two of them stood outside any room I entered. I didn't even bathe without someone there in case I was attacked. And because I was watched, any upset I had had to be carefully managed, in case someone's mouth ran off without their brain.

"Even before I was the Mother, I was fair-starred, and the woman who kept me trapped in that house was a Black Widow with a temper like none you'd ever seen. One wrong word and she would snap and tear me to pieces. She broke my wrist, once, because I'd used my Gift to feed the earth in the garden, and wouldn't let me leave the house until it was healed."

Saiph fell silent, then, finishing her meal.

"I would like that," she said. "Can I swear?"








Offline Liam Noor

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Re: Mail bag / Male bag
« Reply #8 on: Oct 08, 17, 08:09:20 PM »
Frankly, none of that meant a lick to Liam - though he didn't think it would serve him well to say so. She and Renard were something of a matched set, he thought, though they couldn't be more different - individuals with great power and troubled upbringings, who'd been raised as destinies more than people. His own childhood had been far from perfect, but at least he'd been allowed to have one, not a lamb raised for some prophecy-slaughter.

"I understand," he said, nodding, although he didn't and was certain he never could in full. "You have a role to play. A person to be when you step out those doors. And that is a very noble cause to dedicate your life to."

She was far more selfless than Liam could ever fathom being. He hoped it wasn't contagious.

"But," Liam continued, "I see no reason why you cannot, in this moment, be Saiph, and only Saiph, and be angry - be furious - because you have every right to be about this grasping, self-serving little girl who has the nerve to ask your friendship as she spits in your face. And when you step out those doors you can be Lady Al-Kaid the Too-Many-Casted, Queen Mother of Pruul, and no one has to know about this."

He smiled, laugh lines crinkling at the corners of his eyes, and he leaned back, waiting as a servant cleared away his plate and cutlery. When they retreated, Liam leaned in. "Which is to say, yes, you can swear."

Offline Saiph al-Kaid

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Re: Mail bag / Male bag
« Reply #9 on: Oct 11, 17, 12:52:35 AM »
Saiph loved Liam in that moment, wholly and fully, in a way different than the way she loved Errai or Ghanima or Rakha. They would have let her rage... in a room that was sound-shielded... They would've held her while she cried, and then demanded that she hide all of that away. None of them ever told her that she was right. Saiph smiled, small and uncertain and then wider, her cheeks pinking up with delight. "Okay," she said, and she tipped her face back down to her meal with much more appetite than she'd previously shown.

It was just an odd thought. Especially since coming to Raej, Saiph had never felt like it was permitted to be less than what she would someday be again. A Priestess Queen always ruled in Pruul, if she lived and she was Pruulian. There wasn't a second option. That she had been dethroned was a side note, a temporary thing, because there were always those who opposed the righteous path. Let them all think her dead for now; when she returned it would be with more power than they could imagine, a Black Widow Priestess Queen with all the gifts that that implied, and she couldn't ever forget that. Saiph had to be above reproach...

But not always. They took away the table, the plates, the cutlery. But there was a desk in the little parlor where they had taken their meal, and Saiph rose to her feet to pull paper and pen from the desk-drawers where they were placed. She brought them back over to Liam with a lap-desk, sat close enough that she might have been looking over the sheets, but not so close that she touched him. "How should we start," she asked, squinting at nothing in particular.








Offline Liam Noor

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Re: Mail bag / Male bag
« Reply #10 on: Oct 11, 17, 11:44:45 AM »
Liam gave the servants room to work, and thanked them quietly as they cleared out for the last time. In another place and time, his own mother could have been charged with serving them dinner or clearing the table afterwards. Liam would have wanted her treated with the same courtesy. And it was always useful to be well regarded among the people who made things tick.

He re-seated himself on the edge of the bed, conscious that he was still a stranger to most here and not wanting to give any appearances of untoward conduct. Saiph then handed him the lap desk and all its accoutrements, and Liam got set up to write, careful to not spill ink on the sheets. (They looked very expensive and he did not want to be responsible for them.)

"How should we start," asked Saiph from her place beside him, looking rather more like a teenager at a slumber party than the ruler of an entire territory who had, as she'd said earlier, presided over the murder of thousands at age fourteen.

Liam smiled (though she couldn't see it, he reminded himself) and dipped his pen into the ink well.

"One can't go wrong with Dear Cuntface, in my experience," he suggested brightly. "Let's open with that and let it set the tone for the rest of the letter."

Surely, Saiph could think of how to elevate things from what was, in his opinion, a far tamer starting point than Lady Lirion deserved.

Offline Saiph al-Kaid

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Re: Mail bag / Male bag
« Reply #11 on: Oct 12, 17, 05:55:17 AM »
Liam thanked the servants, and Saiph found that odd. She mostly let them do as they would; the ones who personally helped her were to be thanked, and of course all of them were to be treated as equals, but mostly she recognized the assistance and the helpmeets as her due. Though she was well self-sufficient in most ways due to the way she'd been raised and her years in the desert, she did almost feel she deserved to be above those that were employed by the Court. Saiph was a holy figure. Her words were the will of Mother Night. A hearth witch or a Jewelless male could never achieve what she did simply by existing. Part of her was horrified to think it, but the part of her that had spent two years in Court knew what she was due.

"Dear cuntface," Saiph began, and then she had to stop to laugh. It was a good thing this letter wasn't the official response. Syeira would probably kill her, if Iskander didn't do it first. Not to mention Errai and Rakha would be so displeased. "Fuck you for your letter. It was asinine, and an utter waste of my time, even compared to Protocol lessons with dour old Lady Mekhet, who could make a fucking explosion sound dull." There was no way she was actually doing this, she thought, and she covered her face for a moment to gather herself, because--because the last time she'd said anything so intemperate it had been the morning of Errai's departure and she'd only told him that it sucked. Even that had felt deliciously daring. This was... This was amazing, and Liam's pen scratching against the paper made something in her stomach leap. If only she didn't have to attempt to maintain the unassailable image of Mother Night's own daughter.

She cleared her throat. "I don't need the advice of a foreigner on how to run a Court, because I bet I've been doing it longer than you, since I've never heard of you in my life. And also, if you close the salt mines you're going to bankrupt my entire Territory, so fuck you for that, too. I hope you like building fucking prisons and wasting water on rapists and murderers because that's where you're going to end up. Pruul doesn't have fucking prisons for a reason, so maybe do some research before rushing off half-cocked and white knighting for people who break witches for fun.

"But you're ruling the Sabbah so I guess you must like fucking rats, because that's what they all are, rats and cockroaches and--and human slugs, except Cutter, who is eight hundred times the Warlord any of your stupid fucking born Sabbah could ever be. Sabbah is a clan of pigs and child-murderers that can't field a Queen of their own tribe because no good Queen would want to rule them, so they're taking you instead. The Sabbah let a man who rapes prisoners who can't consent and his own children lead them for fifty years and you're not going to be any better because the Sabbah are a disgusting tumor and a cancer on Pruulian society and I should've had them all executed when I had the chance."

Saiph paused, then, and scrubbed at her face. "I think I'm running out of steam," she said to Liam, "Do you have any ideas?"








Offline Liam Noor

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Re: Mail bag / Male bag
« Reply #12 on: Oct 12, 17, 11:25:41 AM »
Liam wrote as quickly as he could, covering the page with line after line of his tight architect's hand. Saiph's insults flowed out of her like an uncovered spring, and he had to restrain himself from laughing or he would miss parts of her dictation. Tears welled up in his eyes from the effort - Mother, he was fit to burst with hilarity!

When she finally stopped, Liam let out an amused wheeze and looked their creation over.

"I think I'm running out of steam."


Liam nodded, understanding. She'd let off a lot, and there was no reason to force vitriol where there was none left. That would just leave one with the mental sensation of heaving up bile.

"I think, Queenling," he said, "That a good final paragraph reiterating the above points about her being an asinine foreign rat fucker would not be a bad move."

(Rat fucker, he thought, was a fabulous insult and he would save it for further use.)

He set the pen down briefly to crack his knuckles. "Then, we shall sign it with your full title and a comprehensive listing of all the reasons why you are her superior in any way, allow it to dry - and then fold it up into a little glider and sail it into the hearth. Let your anger feed the fire. It's a far better use of paper than continuing correspondence with this twat."

He reached out and placed a gentle hand on her shoulder. "How does that sound?"

Offline Saiph al-Kaid

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Re: Mail bag / Male bag
« Reply #13 on: Oct 14, 17, 02:29:58 AM »
Saiph patted Liam gently on the shoulder, because she was a little worried by the smothered, laughing wheeze, but also--she felt better. She felt good, even. It was nice, to be around someone who didn't think of her as a living legend. Sort of like having a brother might have been, though she knew that Liam was quite a bit older than she was, quite likely too old to be her brother in truth. Still. She liked having the possibility. It helped her categorize him.

She shook herself when she realized that she was already trying to come up with the face that he most wanted to see. That was the exact opposite of what this was about. Liam told her to be herself, and that was the face that she'd present, even if she wasn't really sure who Saiph al-Kaid was, absent all her titles. Saiph sighed, and thought for a long moment, until she had something she could use and feel good about.

"In conclusion, I hate you because of the people you've chosen to associate with and I wish for you to never figure out how to lull a sandworm so you and everyone in your Court get eaten by them. Even that's too good for the Sabbah but I wouldn't want to waste anyone's time with giving you what you really deserve so horrible fang-mouthed monsters it is for you.

"Fuck off, Saiph Izar Midraara--that's m-i-d-r-a-a-r-a--al-Muzni al-Kaid, the rightful Mother Superior of Pruul." She elbowed Liam aside so she could officially 'sign' the letter with a carefully-placed thumbprint, burned into the paper with Craft.

She listened to him fold the paper. "I can't see the hearth to fly the letter over," she admitted.








Offline Liam Noor

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Re: Mail bag / Male bag
« Reply #14 on: Oct 14, 17, 03:02:01 AM »
Liam dutifully copied down Saiph's final sign off, taking extra care to spell her name perfectly. He signed the L in Pruul with a terminal flourish, and then waved a hand over the paper, blasting it with a quick-drying spell and then a sealing spell to lock the ink in. The glider came together quickly - they were something of a pastime among the architects of his former form, and Liam had a personal design that worked quite well.

"I can't see the hearth."

Oh.

Right.

Liam held the finished paper plane out to Saiph, giving her a chance to feel its aerodynamic lines, the way it came to a neat point at the nose, the crisp edges of its wings. He'd perfected the design over countless late nights at the firm. It would fly true.

"The hearth is about two meters ahead and slightly to your left," he said gently, giving her a slight nudge in the direction. "It's blazing. I daresay our well-wishes for Lady Lirion stand even the slightest chance of survival."

He chuckled briefly. Then, taking the glider back, he held it aloft for a moment - and then launched it across the room in a perfect arc, straight into the flames. It crackled as the fire caught, flames popping around the paper.

"Good riddance, I say," said Liam, flopping backwards onto the bed. He looked over towards Saiph. "You can certainly curse like a sailor, Queenling. Where did you learn that?"

Offline Saiph al-Kaid

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Re: Mail bag / Male bag
« Reply #15 on: Oct 14, 17, 03:15:09 AM »
"As a runaway in the desert, they let a lot of things slide. As long as I was alive at the end of the day and no one got eaten by sandworms, who cared what I said," said Saiph, shifting her position to cross her legs beneath her. She still dressed like a Pruulian, weaving color language through her wardrobe though she could no longer see it. Her wardrobe also had some pieces in Raejian fashion, but she didn't prefer them as she did the kameez and elaborately draped dresses of her younger years. Today, she was wearing pale gray silk, carefully pleated beneath a well-fitted brocade vest. As she crossed her legs, the pleats were pulled free from the shimmering fabric. She bunched it up in her lap and tucked her fingers beneath her ankles.

The fire crackled and she could sense a pop of Purple Dusk power as her signature caught as well. She smothered a smile and, deciding to take a risk, flopped back over Liam like she would have upon Errai. "I haven't always been Saiph Izar Midraara al-Muzni al-Kaid, you know. I used to just be, you know... Saiph." She was quiet for a long moment, listening to the fire as it consumed all those awful things she'd said. "I used to weave, before I lost my sight. I was good at it, too. I could do all the patterning, I could even dye my own thread. Gulbehar used to tell me how much I brought in by selling the tapestries and bolt-cloth I made. It was... it was a lot." She sighed. "I can't even read anymore, I have to make Errai or Iskander do it, but every time I bring a book to Iskander he's like...

"'This isn't a sex book, is it, Saiph?' and I mean, what if it is, I'm almost twenty years old and I'm going to have my virgin night in the spring. I'm allowed to be curious." Maybe Liam would take over. She could ask. Saiph nudged him with her elbow. "Maybe you could read to me sometime? You have a good voice for it."








Offline Liam Noor

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Re: Mail bag / Male bag
« Reply #16 on: Oct 14, 17, 11:06:48 PM »
Liam regarded her as she spoke, considering the bond that tied them together - a bond so unlikely that it hadn't even crossed his mind he might form it when he set out for Raej.

He had not, necessarily, been expecting her to flop onto him, and he momentarily saw stars when she did. Liam stifled his gasp of surprised - he did not want to let her catch on to his discomfort, comfortable as she seemed, and in a moment, it passed. He caught his breath, and they went on as they were, her with her back against his ribs.

"My mother sewed," he murmured. "Nothing fancy. Tunics. Skirts. Curtains. She tailored things for the family she worked for."

They'd expected her to do everything. Liam was glad he'd left with his apprenticeship - otherwise he'd likely still be there trimming hedges.

Saiph continued on, and Liam gasped in surprise. Then, he laughed, the noise rumbling up from his stomach and shaking the Queen lying on him. "You mean that was your book," he asked, tears at the corners of his eyes. "Lady Laurel's Fall from Grace?"

She nodded, head thumping against his chest.

"I was reading it all afternoon!" said Liam, sounding very much like he'd enjoyed himself. "It was juicy. I was absolutely riveted. Look, anytime you want anything scandalous read to you, bring it to me. I'll even do all the voices."

He liked her. Mother Night be damned. He'd never meant for this to happen.

Offline Saiph al-Kaid

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Re: Mail bag / Male bag
« Reply #17 on: Oct 15, 17, 05:33:06 AM »
Saiph understood, then, his regard for the servants. He had grown up as one of them, perhaps thought of how he would wish for his mother to be treated. Was his mother treated kindly by the family she served? Saiph quested a hand across the bedspread until she found one of Liam's hands, laced their fingers together loosely. Not so tight that he couldn't draw away if he liked, of course, but she could understand wanting to protect one's family. Someday, when she had her own court again, she would ask Liam if he would like to bring his mother to stay with them. It seemed like the least she could do for one of the males the Darkness had bound to her.

"I liked the sex scenes. And before you say anything about that, I'm a Black Widow," she said, with some asperity, "some libido is expected with the caste. You ought to know, your man is a Widow, too, isn't he?" As soon as the words left her mouth Saiph felt ashamed of them. Reminding Liam of what he had lost, what might no longer be available to him even as he sat here talking with her about smutty literature, was cruel. "I'm sorry," she said, "I don't mean to poke at a sore spot. I know that it's... it's hard to be away from people you love." Harder still if you didn't know they were alright, or even still alive.

She squeezed Liam's hand. "I asked Iskander to keep an ear to the ground. He's Lady Neferet's Consort and husband, and the High Priest's nephew, so he knows people who know people. If there is a male Black Widow about, we'll find him." Such was her duty as a Queen; to do what she could for the males in her service, no matter how worrisome the thought was. Liam had sworn that there was no way his lover could be related to Adramelech, and she didn't think that he would lie to her. She trusted her males, generally... and Iskander had been willing enough to look.








Offline Liam Noor

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Re: Mail bag / Male bag
« Reply #18 on: Oct 15, 17, 02:59:26 PM »
Liam tensed momentarily as her fingers wrapped his. Platonic touch - tenderness - was weird, but he thought he'd offend her if he pulled away. All this touchy-feely bullshit was just part and parcel of belonging to a court. And he'd been living like a wound spring ever since Renard disappeared - it would do him good to relax and feel someone else's warmth for a while.

He flushed red at her line of questioning, blush nearly reaching his ears. Indeed, Renard was no exception from his caste's tendencies - but the specifics were hardly anything Saiph needed to know about. Anything anyone needed to know about. More they were a hard-won secret for Liam to keep.

"That, Queenling," he said, placing his free hand tentatively against her hair, "is none of your business, and I don't care how old you are."

He nodded, though he did not squeeze her hand back in turn - all this body language was strange to him, though he was doing his best to ape it. "I'm sure he'll turn up," said Liam. He knew there was no reasoning to back it up, but he was sure that he'd know if Renard were dead. And perhaps all this was par for the course? Renard had always had a tendency to go off the grid for days at a time. Maybe he was simply reverting to type... however he'd lived before Liam had arrived on his doorstep, hungry for what he could offer?

Offline Saiph al-Kaid

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Re: Mail bag / Male bag
« Reply #19 on: Oct 15, 17, 05:01:47 PM »
Saiph sighed, but it was a deliberately overstated sigh. She didn't expect Liam to tell her everything. But the things she wanted to know, she'd get them eventually--not about how Liam's lover was in bed, though she was curious--but how Liam's relationship with his lover had come to be, the things that Liam liked about him. She wanted to know those things because they would shed more light on Liam than on his partner. Anyway, she didn't push any further. It was nice to be around someone else and not alone, anyway, she could feel Liam's chest rise with each breath he took and she felt less raw about the awful letter from Elenor Lirion, to be sure.

"Thank you for helping me with the letter," she said, because it wasn't like she could do the polite thing, which would have been to glance at him and nod in a Queenly manner. Strictly speaking, she didn't even know where his head was. Somewhere to her left, probably. "Do you think if she writes back, you can come help me again?" There was no way anyone would be so masochistic as to respond to the letter she'd sent with Gulhar; it had been as scalding as Saiph knew how to make it.

She was quiet for a minute, but she couldn't stay quiet the entire time she waited for Liam's answer, so she said, "Will you tell me about him? I know he wears the Red and he's a Black Widow, and he grew up in Chaillot, and you love him. But if he's yours, and you're mine, I'd like to know more about him? Since he's an important part of your life, if you were willing to uproot your whole world for him and come here."








Offline Liam Noor

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Re: Mail bag / Male bag
« Reply #20 on: Oct 16, 17, 12:26:28 AM »
Liam was quiet for a long time, and his heart pounded in his ears. Until he'd come to Raej, he'd never spoken with Renard about anyone. He'd laughed off his coworkers bawdy comments - the Noor, you got a hot date tonights? and the Noor, you're walking like you got laid this weekends - but never gone into detail. And how could he? He was in love with an urban legend. A shadow who stalked the streets by night. Everything Liam loved about him was unspeakable.

But he doubted Saiph would be content not to know, and Liam doubted her help would be very forthcoming if she knew the truth. My lover is a madman, a creator of killers. Most in our home territory breathe easier knowing he's off the streets.

Instead, Liam said, "He's an artist - a painter. An abstract master - his work is like staring into the Darkness. And he's so meticulous about everything. Everything has a purpose and a place. And I love him."

And I think he loves me. Liam had hope. As much as Renard could love anything, once he was persuaded that it existed at all. Liam had spent so long breaking through, working to convince Renard he wasn't another hallucination.

"But," said Liam, "He's fragile. Reclusive. Which is why I'm so worried about him. I mean. Not that I don't believe he can fend for himself, but... I think something bad may have befallen him. Something unsavory. That's why."

Renard had gotten along just fine before Liam came along, after all. It wasn't as though Liam had tamed him and made himself responsible as a result.

Offline Saiph al-Kaid

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Re: Mail bag / Male bag
« Reply #21 on: Oct 16, 17, 04:49:54 AM »
Saiph sighed wistfully. She'd never gotten to see much art in her lifetime. Paintings weren't much of a thing in Pruul; figurative art was held in low esteem, compared to fine mosaic work, complex and unique architecture and sculpture. Now that she was blinded, she would never see any art again. That seemed a misery, especially since so much creative work came through Raej on its way to Kaeleer or out to the rest of Terreille.

But her sigh wasn't so much for the art as it was for the way Liam spoke of his missing lover. And I love him. Liam said it so simply. Saiph wondered if she'd ever say those words in that way, if her phatic utterances would ever be spoken in a quiet, peaceful room like this. Errai knew she loved him but she never said it, because she was Pruulian, and because there were expectations upon her. When she did tell him her feelings, it was in the dark and loneliness of the night before he departed from her. And she had made Ghanima promise to keep herself safe, but neither of them had said those words. Did it matter if one never said those exact three words? Could other things communicate the same sentiment?

She released Liam's hand and folded her fingers together over her chest, trying to imagine the man her Purple Dusk Warlord loved enough to abandon his homeland, his career, his family, his everything. She tried to imagine why this foreign male would have left a man who loved him so much. That part wasn't hard. She loved Ghanima and Errai and she loved Pruul and she'd left all three of them, or else sent them away, and told them to never come to her unless it was safe for them. Perhaps there was some equally-strong reasoning behind Liam's love and his departure.

"I am sure he's well," said Saiph. "Black Widows are canny and credulous creatures. Like the spiders we are named for, we are difficult to kill. And someone who captured your heart must be strong and brave even above other Black Widows."

She sat up, turning her face towards Liam's though she couldn't see anything. It made people feel like she was paying attention to them. "I hope he likes me," she said. "It would be sad, to have found you and then to ask you to choose." She tipped her head to the side, silvery hair slipping off her shoulder. "I hope you would choose him. Real love is very rare, Lord Noor."








Offline Liam Noor

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Re: Mail bag / Male bag
« Reply #22 on: Oct 16, 17, 11:51:13 PM »
There was no way to know for sure how Renard would or wouldn't respond to Saiph. Her Purple Dusk guaranteed her an Offering that would earn the Widow Prince's respect, though it might be begrudging. At least Liam's Queen wasn't Light Jeweled - that would have just been an unworkable situation on all sides.

"Yes," said Liam, hand stroking Saiph's hair. "I know he's likely fine..." They'd been dancing around this subject for several minutes now, and Liam was sure he'd made his point clear. He knew his worries were likely misplaced, but he wasn't willing to take the risk that he was right. It was better to come this way for nothing than to stay home and leave Renard to die. He was ruined for other lovers now - none could ever compare. If he let his happiness slip through his fingers, he'd never find it again somewhere else.

"I think you have many factors in your favor," he said measuredly, "for him to like you - though he's picky, like a cat."

Best not make promises he couldn't keep. There was no telling how Renard would take to his rough-and-soft, multi-casted Queen, and when Renard tried to imagine possibilities he drew an enormous blank. He doubted Saiph or her minders would much appreciate Renard's methods for determining whether other people were real or not.

Most didn't.

But he'd been surprised already this evening. Perhaps it would go well.

"I would pick him over you, Queenling," he added. "Absolutely. But I hope it will not come to that."