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A Black Jewel has obliterated the longstanding Eyrien rulership of the Territory. As the Rihlanders begin to reclaim their homeland they do so under the stern gaze of their "savior". Three separate peoples struggle to both claim their own identities and become a unified nation, but old hatreds are difficult to shed.
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Author Topic: The Price We Pay  (Read 154 times)

Description: tag: Aaryne

Offline Janne Hyugge

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The Price We Pay
« on: Oct 02, 19, 01:11:12 PM »
They’d still been eating a slow dinner when Aaryne arrived. Leftovers, because no one wanted to wait, but at least it meant he hadn’t missed anything fresh. Nadia had been explaining her Caste lessons to Isana, in great detail, after complaining about yet another difficult part. Janne honestly found it nearly as frustrating as she surely did, that this was not something in which he had any experience and he couldn’t help her. Yet never had he thought to ask Lady Drachlan or Nadia’s tutor for an explanation. A Queen’s knowledge was for a Queen alone. He could, however, suggest that a good method of finding out where the problem lay was in teaching what you were learning to someone else. Theoretically, anyway. At least Isana was curious, and she asked good questions, so he’d left them to compare their Caste lessons, both of which he couldn’t help with, as he wondered what their Queen was wanting of his husband this time.
 
He’d reached out instinctively when the door opened, brushing minds with the person stepping inside: half by way of greeting, half to make sure it really was Aaryne. Despite his pleasure at having everyone together under the same roof again, he’d only offered a thin smile and nod to the cold box where a fourth plate was waiting. The tension he’d felt in that momentary brush of thoughts stayed with him through the rest of the meal—girls’ voices floating in the background—through clean up and help with homework, through an evening of settled in routine and getting the girls to bed. He’d kissed them each on the forehead, made sure there were no monsters in the closet or under their beds or beyond the window (incidentally also locking it and closing the blinds while he did) and closed the door after Aaryne. The same as they did every night. A familiar comfort that felt too much like going through the motions, but one they both needed. The stability of being a family behind closed doors was the highlight of every day they spent together in Rihland.
 
Back in the kitchen, he’d poured them both a beer and carried Aaryne’s glass over just so he could set a hand briefly on his shoulder on his way back to his own. Even now, sitting in their small living room, he could feel that tension growing. His fear of the answer to his question forcing him quiet.
 
Lady Drachlan needed his husband for many things. Things that took him away for a while. Most were Court related errands, simple and straightforward, with a little extra on the side. Some, he knew, were dangerous. All, he often told himself, were necessary, or she would not ask it of him. This was not the first time Aaryne had come home late. This time, Janne even knew the reason. It was not even the first time he’d come home stiff with determination and tumbling thoughts. It was not always a harbinger of bad things. Janne understood this. But that part of him that didn’t care for logic or rationality, the remaining animal instinct, made the hairs rise on his arm the very instant he’d sensed that familiar state in his husband.
 
It was this familiarity that told him this time it was different, strained too far. Yearning.
 
So, he’d waited, and sat, now in silence, still waiting, until his husband found the words to answer what he couldn’t ask. He’d been staring at him for several long breaths already, fixed expression gradually softening as he thought of just how much the man had done for him, for them. How much he wouldn’t mind just sitting there looking at him. Spend a quiet night…
 
If only.
 
Setting his beer aside, he gave in to tradition and gestured for Aaryne’s foot by way of offering a foot massage. Even if it didn’t help, it couldn’t hurt. “How long this time?”
 
Not what he wanted to know, but better than building up the silence even more.

Offline Aaryne Haugen

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Re: The Price We Pay
« Reply #1 on: Oct 03, 19, 12:12:37 AM »
A part of Aaryne never wanted to have this conversation. A part of him wanted to pretend that Lady Signe had never talked to him about this. A part of him just hated the fact that it was necessary at all. It wasn’t right. It was unjust. There should never be a situation where a family should have to be split up like this, especially not so that they might have a chance of actually going home where they could be a proper family without hiding like it was something to be ashamed of.

These were the things that ate away at him regularly, the deeply seeded worries and rages that even regular meditation and the occupancy of keeping busy with Court or (secret) fatherhood couldn’t wash away or fully soothe. These were the things all bubbling to the surface now, summoned by this task set before him by the Lady he and his husband had chosen to serve.

Aaryne didn’t try to hide his tension from his husband when he returned home. They would have their conversation later and take things from there. One of the things he loved most about Janne was that he never, ever needed to hide anything from him. He didn’t need to hide his worries, he didn’t need to hide his uncertainty or his fears. He didn’t need to hide his bitterness or that he tried so hard to move past it if not for his own sake than for the sake of their daughters. No matter what, he knew that he could be completely honest with his husband in all things, and he could trust that Janne would be just as honest with him.

Once the girls were shuffled off to bed, Aaryne made his usual rounds about the house. He checked each window and door and he checked each access point for the warding that may have seemed like overkill in a district that was less populated by Glacian refugees. That done, he set about establishing some of his best aural shields around the room - so that no ears (big or little) would be able to eavesdrop on the conversation about to be had.

Janne joined him over on the couch and Aaryne didn’t give in to temptation for the foot massage, though he was tense enough it certainly couldn’t have hurt. No, what he needed more was nearness. So instead he took a drink of his beer and moved it closer to Janne’s before shifting to be able to lean fully against him, nudging him slightly so he would be able to lean into his husband’s broad chest - offering his own weight and nearness as much as he was asking for the comfort of Janne’s embrace.

He closed his eyes and just… relished it a moment, reassured by that closeness, that touch, that knowledge that this love and that of their little family - that everything he did for them was all worth it, because it was for them.

“It’s more complicated this time,” he said quietly after a long moment. Out of habit, he reached out with a probing tendril of his Summer Sky, triple-checking the shielding he’d put up in place. “This… won’t be like the other assignments. Not to me, not to her, not for us and not for a lot of other people - and I told her that before I accepted I needed to talk to you first.” He took a deep breath and leaned his head back, turning it so he could hear the familiar thrum of Janne’s heartbeat.

“I would be going to Glacia.” He wasn’t cruel enough to let the words linger without further explanation, so after a steadying breath he continued on smoothly. “It would be long. Six months at least.” His voice tightened on the words even though he was trying to stay even and calm. His ability to hold a facade always seemed to falter around Janne and he never bothered to try too hard to fix that. “If what I’ve learned after six months confirms what we suspect, then Signe plans to move.” Now he shifted to be able to look up at Janne, needing to see his eyes. “We could go home, Janne. There are a lot of “if”s but, if this all goes along the path we see… Signe will give us our home back. One without collars. One without having to lie every day or live in fear.” Aaryne let out a shaky breath, hope trembling in his chest on the fragile wings of maybe.

Offline Janne Hyugge

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Re: The Price We Pay
« Reply #2 on: Oct 03, 19, 12:18:17 AM »
That both of them insisted on security measures many would have deemed unnecessary was both an instilled wariness, and an insurance policy. Their girls were precious, but their Castes made them even more so. Dangerously so. Here, they should not have had to worry, but of course, that didn’t mean they wouldn’t. But it was also a matter of keeping anyone out, no matter their intentions, to ensure a privacy they had nowhere else. Tonight was Aaryne’s turn. Janne trusted his attention to detail more than his own.
 
The aural shields, however, were a new addition. Remembering the other occasions when those same Summer Sky aural shields closed around him with such care, his hand could not hold steady around his glass. True, not everything began and ended with bad news. Sometimes it was only young innocence being safeguarded… But not tonight.
 
So, he set the beer down, and when Aaryne leaned over the tremble grew stronger. Just for a moment. One, shaky breath of time until he let everything go in a rushed exhalation. The answer mattered, but it didn’t all at the same time. Janne folded around the warm weight pressed against him, cheek resting on the back of Aari’s head, bristles catching in his hair, arm curling up to hold him close. Breathing in the scent of the man and letting the couch do most of the work to keep them both upright. It didn’t matter, as long as he had this. As long as they had each other…
 
A grunt of agreement was all Aaryne’s first observation won from him. He’d already guessed that much, but he couldn’t blame the man for starting slow, small. He already wasn’t sure he wanted to hear it. No, he did, only, he was afraid. And he wasn’t even sure why.
 
There was no hiding his reaction when his husband made it to the core of the issue. It only took that one word. Glacia… And he stiffened on reflex, heart drumming fast as he jerked into full attention beside the man. No longer distracted by worry over his mental state or lingering fatigue. Only confused focus. Why? He want-, he needed to know now. No wonder he’d insisted on telling him. But six months? His fingers curled around Aaryne’s shoulder and Janne shifted, trying, somehow, to press closer, to hold on to something that might slip through his grasp as Aaryne twisted to look at him. His eyes losing their focus. Going back to Glacia was… It wasn’t…
 
No wonder. No wonder. Against what Aaryne must have been holding in all evening, Janne felt his frightened, greedy hope was insignificant. It had taken him a long time to adapt to a place still influenced by their own culture, but he’d never struggled against it. Never dared to admit, even to himself, that he wanted anything more than what they’d found. He knew he did, a life where Aaryne could be acknowledged as the father of their children. As his husband. As the man he loved… A life where the girls could grow up proud of their heritage, of their history, and of themselves, no matter what Caste or Jewels they bore. Where they didn’t have to hide…
 
He wanted, he wanted it, this maybe, this what-if, this terrifying possibility. But… but, but, but, but, but!
 
“Why do I want it to be true?” He spoke the words quietly, unsteady voice the only outlet for the shaking in his soul.
 
He did not doubt Aaryne’s word. He did not doubt their Queen’s word. He did not doubt the possibility. But if he hoped, he hoped for Aaryne walking into danger. If he wanted, he wanted something more than what he already didn’t deserve. If Aaryne found what he was looking for, he’d find the Glacia where Janne grew up, he’d find it worse, and because this was the condition to Signe moving, to Signe taking back what they’d left behind… He wanted Aaryne to find it.
 
Janne knew it was a fool’s errand to think that the Glacia they’d known and abandoned would have miraculously cured itself while people still fled the wounds it inflicted, but it felt wrong to hope for anything else. Even if it wasn’t really what he was yearning after. It was a reflection of the shame he felt at having turned his back. At being powerless. He squeezed his eyes shut, still trying to absorb the words, and dragged out a raw monotone. “What changed her mind?”
 
He knew Signe had been wavering. Never quite so far as this taking back entailed, but he’d known the reports they received from the refugees agitated her. Displeased her. Worried her. What pushed her beyond concern? The answer wasn’t, necessarily, important. It might be significant if it was so influential, but he was only stalling for time to adapt. For a chance to recover his equilibrium, before the fierce desire to deny him any right to leave them for this broke through.
 
He didn’t know what else to say.

Offline Aaryne Haugen

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Re: The Price We Pay
« Reply #3 on: Oct 03, 19, 12:19:03 AM »
Janne wasn’t the best at expressing his emotions, but he’d never hidden them well - at least not from Aaryne. The years they’d had together had only made it that much easier for the Warlord to read his husband. He could see the hope, and the worry, and the fear - all of which echoed his own complex feelings on the matter.

’Why do I want it to be true?’

It never occured to Aaryne not to respond to the conflicted distress in his husband’s voice. Moving carefully so he didn’t accidentally knee him in any unfortunate places, Aaryne moved so that instead of leaning against him he was straddling his lap and was able to look directly at him. His hands came up and cupped Janne’s face, thumbs stroking the coarse whiskers of his beard then up to the softer crests of his cheeks.

“Because you want to go home just as much as I do,” he murmured softly, bringing their foreheads together, needing more touch. He knew that Glacia held less fond memories for Janne than it did for himself. Aaryne knew he was blessed for the family that he’d had growing up. His husband… had not been so lucky. But Glacia was still their home. It was where they had met, where they had fallen in love. As corrupted as it had become, it was still a deeply spiritual place and… it was home. “You don’t want the strife that would give us the cause to strike but you know that things as they were when we left… we left because it was only going to get worse Janne. We’ve both heard the stories from people coming through the pass, how bad things have been getting.” He took a slow, steadying breath and kissed his husband softly on the lips, letting the touch linger like he needed to remind himself that they did get out, that they were able to avoid some of those horrors. Neither of them had ever worn a collar about their necks as thankfully that trend hadn’t started until well after they had left, but they weren’t totally ignorant to what had been happening across the mountains.

He pulled back enough to give him a small smile, though it was still weighed down in the corners by the heft of their conversation, one hand lifting to brush over the top of his husband’s head, fingers trailing down the side of his face and over his lips before falling away again to take his hand and hold it tightly. “With the recent switch in leadership following the death of the previous Queen” -there was no speaking that woman’s name in his household- “the new Queen has confirmed herself and there is an opening for change. Not from the new Queen but potentially from… us, us and any allies that we can gather back home.” He took a slow breath and then went on, not shielding his husband from the frightening truth of the possibilities before them. “Signe fears that left to their own devices, Glacia will try to do with Rihland what it has already done with Nharkava.”

He let that sit heavily in the air for a moment before continuing with his own speculations. “Prince Elbremov may wear the Black, but we both know the powerhouses that walk the Courts of Glacia. We all know it. If Glacia does turn its sights on Rihland, and Janne - if we’re being completely honest with ourselves I think they’ll try. Considering how many have fled here..? How easy would it be for them justify it to themselves to come for Rihland, if only so that they could force Elbremov to negotiate the runaways back into their clutches?”

Offline Janne Hyugge

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Re: The Price We Pay
« Reply #4 on: Oct 03, 19, 12:20:40 AM »
You want to go home…
 
He did. May the Darkness be merciful, but he did. It was not a choice.
 
He’d only asked because he couldn’t hold in his fear at how strongly he’d reacted, at how fiercely his desire flared. Want and need were uncomfortable in his mind, and something like this, it was too big to be anything other than selfish. Even if, rationally, one mind willing anything would have little impact on the truth they already knew. Even so, Aaryne’s care in answering him eased a small part of the ache in his chest, and Janne covered the hand on his left cheek with his own before sliding fingers around Aaryne’s neck and curling them in his hair as he lingered in the kiss.
 
It was true enough, what he said, it wasn’t as though they were wishing misfortune on others that didn’t exist already. But it pained him to think of the people they’d left behind with every new intake, every new but familiar story. Things were growing worse, not better, never better, and the idea of weathering this storm hunkered down in the lee of the mountains only made him grow restless whenever he heard a new rumour or read another report. They’d walked away, he’d never looked back. He’d do the same to Rihland in a heartbeat with far fewer regrets littering the trail. With Aaryne and the girls beside him, where they went didn’t matter to him. But he did, indeed, have a desperate attachment to the first home he’d ever felt comfortable in. He longed to have it back, to give it back to the three most important people in his life.
 
He’d never believed it could happen though.
 
Even after so many years, his first thought still turned to question his right. What right did he have against those favoured by Mother Night? The answer was always none, until he changed the scope of the question. What right did they have, Aaryne and Nadia and Isana and Lady Drachlan? It was harder to accept naught as the answer then.
 
So, though he possessively curled Aaryne’s hand in close, awkward as the position would be for the man, he only frowned deeper at the continuing explanation but made no other protest. Even without the religious overtones, he could well understand why allies wouldn’t be made among those who held high authority. But the thought of Aaryne possibly approaching anyone to find out where they stood filled him with a desire to never let go of him ever again. No matter how difficult daily life would suddenly become.
 
His own childish thoughts in the midst of a discussion about something so politically and socially daunting had Janne suddenly huffing at himself and falling forward to hide his expression against Aaryne’s chest. Forcing himself to let go of his hand only to find that his arm had somehow snaked around his husband’s back before he’d decided what to do with it.
 
“What would Prince Elbremov care about a few Light Jeweled interlopers?” The words came out muffled, annoyed at both himself and the difficult topic. Aaryne was doing a good job reminding him why they should struggle for this chance, and why it was a bad idea to make any waves. Avorla was surrounded by strangers who saw them either as foreigners or traitors. He’d never been good at optimism.
 
“Between his strength and theirs, we’d be lucky enough to survive if they don’t use words.” Despite now speaking to Aaryne’s stomach, his speech was blunt and discouraged. “If he is not enough to fight our battles for us, what does Lady Drachlan hope for you to accomplish?” Still blunt, but he softened his tone on the question, clinging tighter. He did not think inaction was the better option, he just wanted to know their thought processes, their reasons, now he knew the what that was provoking Signe’s reaction. Why did it have to be this? Why did it have to be Aaryne? What was she looking for that was not already obvious?
 
Janne had never once questioned the stories he heard about what was happening now in Glacia. So, to him, the idea of needing to confirm the truth was only a delaying tactic. Who would run from nothing? How could so many imagine the same fears? “Is it evidence? Or does she deny it all?”
 
He didn’t blame her either way. He’d have liked to refuse belief if he could, too. But if it was only that she couldn’t believe what was in front of her eyes, then he would not accept this choice of hers nearly as readily, no matter how willing Aaryne was to risk himself to find the proof she needed.

Offline Aaryne Haugen

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Re: The Price We Pay
« Reply #5 on: Oct 03, 19, 12:21:30 AM »
Aaryne could tell how heavily this was weighing on his love, and he wished he could soothe it. He wished that there was a way for him to absolve him of all his fears and worries. He wished that he could tell him that everything would be alright, that whatever the outcome - they would all be alright…

But he couldn’t lie to Janne, not even to erase some of his pain. All he could do was hold onto him, tell him the truth, and try to help them both focus on the hope rather than the fear. It was important to acknowledge the fear, yes - but if they both dwelled on it… it would only lead to torment and he didn’t want that for either of them.

He gently stroked his hands over Janne’s strong shoulders and  back as he spoke in answer to his questions. “The first thing she needs is confirmation - not out of lack of belief but out of a need for trustworthy narrative that she’ll be able to depend on to be able to plan from. She needs to know how the Courts are acting, how the dark-Jeweled are reacting, how the light-Jeweled are feeling before she can plan any sort of angle. That’s what I’ll be able to tell her in the first few months. From there…” He took a breath and closed his eyes, thinking through it.

“From there it will depend largely on what I find. Are there enough dark-Jeweled allies, is there already some network established, are the light-Jeweled prepared to stand up or are they too afraid? With the upset of the change in leadership, it could go either way but it’s hopeful that the people are restless and ready to take their world back, their lives back.”

He was quiet for a moment, then cupped Janne’s face in his hands again and lifted it, meeting his eyes as he spoke next. “A person’s Jewels are not what define them, Janne. The depth of one’s Jewels does not denote a person’s worthiness any more than does the strength of their arm. Some people are granted different gifts from the Mother for reasons we cannot begin to fathom. It is not our task, as mortal men and women, to judge the souls of others. That task is left to the Mother and the Mother alone. And just because someone has a bigger psychic hammer does not make the rest of us nails, nor does it make us irrelevant. When the Mother made the world, borne of the Darkness, she created it in balance.”

His thumbs brushed gently over the bristles on his husband’s jaw as he searched his face. “Like we balance each other, you and I - so did She balance the world. Which means there is always, always a way - even if we haven’t found it yet.”

Offline Janne Hyugge

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Re: The Price We Pay
« Reply #6 on: Oct 03, 19, 12:24:45 AM »
Eyes closed, cheeks warm and Aaryne close, Janne savoured the caress of his husband’s hands. That reassurance kept him present in the moment, stalling his thoughts from running down too many dead ends. Without Aaryne’s patience and presence, he thought he might have panicked, and he could appreciate just as much that it was Aaryne telling him, that it was Aaryne alone, that no one else needed to see him afraid. Glad, too, that Signe hadn’t called them both into her office where they’d be forced to hear her proposal able only to stand side by side. Not that he was in any way related to that side of Court business, beyond being married to the man. This… might have been childish too, but everything sounded better in his husband’s voice, with his husband in his arms.
 
Even, yes, even the threat of civil unrest following them. Or waiting in their future.
 
It didn’t make it better, but it was somehow easier to hear, easier to collect himself and keep all the pieces together. Even if he’d still caught himself on the wrong hook. No matter how well he knew Lady Drachlan, no matter how readily he trusted her to look, to act, to choose the best for her District, he wanted to find her in the wrong, so he could argue against her decision. He knew how hard it was to accept what you didn’t want to see. He’d made the mistake himself, not wanting the ghosts of his past to sneak into his new life with Aaryne. He’d turned a blind eye, pushed down his growing worries, brushed away the misgivings… until Inessa vanished.
 
That guilt still weighed on him too, weighed on his thoughts so that he expected it in others. He wanted it in others, sometimes, and Aaryne’s calm explanation reminded him that doubt and denial were not the only reasons to look for evidence, for patterns and appeal. Advantage and disadvantage. It had been too long since he’d troubled himself thinking that way. But he apologised to them both in his heart, Signe and Aaryne, and even whispered the word roughly when he heard it again… A few months… Like a fool expecting the punishment to be lifted if he only proved sincere enough. Few months… As though it was his wrong that made Aaryne lengthen his time away. Months… As though it wouldn’t be worse for him.
 
He knew that if he didn’t let Aaryne go, if he protested enough, he might change the outcome of their decision. He might convince him not to go. But if Aaryne didn’t go, Signe could only send someone else. If she was going to move with confidence, these were things she needed to know. If she was going to move at all…
 
But letting him go, Janne knew them both well enough to understand it was not an easy sacrifice for Aaryne. He would be walking alone amidst strangers. His family left behind. But Janne would have their girls, he’d have Signe, and their neighbours. If he said no, then Signe could blame him instead of Aaryne. ...and how much would she trust her second choice? How much would he?
 
Janne knew Aaryne’s work would be thorough. He knew it would be exactly what was needed—possibly more than he should have known, given as he did not deal with any of Aaryne’s reports. He knew why Lady Drachlan was asking this of him, but he didn’t trust himself to accept it. And he didn’t- He didn’t trust Aaryne to come back. He didn’t trust Glacia to let him go a second time.
 
So, when the man collected his head in his hands and lifted him away from where he was hiding, Janne wasn’t sure he wanted to let him. But he didn’t resist, and he found himself looking up into his husband’s quiet gaze as Aaryne began, for the umpteenth time, to remind him of the lessons he never fully learned. To remind him that it was alright to want what they were wanting. That it was not wrong to fight for the things you believed. That they were no less than any other, and it was not reason or truth that moved the Priestesses and Queens of Glacia. It was only words.
 
He liked Aaryne’s better.
 
But even if it wasn’t wrong, that didn’t make it less dangerous. And he was gritting his teeth against the stinging in his eyes, trying not to let it show. Too late by far, he was sure, and impossible, but he had to try. And he gave him a shakily rueful smile at the end, dipping his chin to brush his lips against one of those wandering thumbs.
 
“You know it scares me.” His words were thick, rasping, impossible to pretend he wasn’t feeling. “All of this.” So many things about what Aaryne was proposing went against what he’d learned was just how things were. He’d lashed out at his brother when it was only him, when it was only frustration. He’d always known better though, and finally been forced to admit it. But where Aaryne’s drive to protect pushed him to take risks, Janne’s now forced everything steady, to find the line where they were safe and never cross it. Balance, but not an easy one.
 
“Even so, I should not-” He grimaced, forced a deep breath and sharp sigh, “I shouldn’t have said that of Lady Drachlan… or Prince Elbremov.”
 
He was still thinking it though, about Rihland’s new ruler. But that was neither his problem nor his business. With a slow blink and slower shake of his head, he made every attempt to push that thought from his mind. Back to where it had lingered since Prince Elbremov had announced himself so handily.
 
“Come back down here.” He tried tugging Aaryne around, and back down to sitting, on his lap if he had to, carefully though, since he didn’t want him to fall. “And tell me what you can of how you plan to mitigate the risks.” Maybe that would help him away from his pessimism. “If I tried to stop you… And Darkness help me, Aaryne, I want to chain you to the bed… we’d both regret it, wouldn’t we?”

Offline Aaryne Haugen

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      WrenStar

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    • *disguised as Jewelless Blood*

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Re: The Price We Pay
« Reply #7 on: Oct 14, 19, 10:46:39 AM »
’If I tried to stop you --and Darkness help me, Aaryne, I want to chain you to the bed -- we’d both regret it, wouldn’t we?’

Aaryne sighed, a sad sort of smile lingering on his lips even as he pressed another kiss to Janne’s lips, then his temple before letting himself be more fully tugged down. It was easy to settle against him, to cuddle close and sink into the comfort that was his husband’s embrace. When Janne held him, it was like the rest of the world couldn’t get to them. It was a power that he wasn’t sure the Prince even knew he had and one that Aaryne appreciated more than he had the words to express.

He took his time relishing in that protective, loving embrace before he drew the breath to speak any answers, wanting to hold onto it - to pause time for even just a little bit.

“Yes,” he finally said. “Yes, I think we would. One way or another Janne, he have to respond to this. You are the only one in the world who could keep me from going, and if you tell me not to go, I won’t. But then we will have to run. We will uproot the girls, we will abandon this Court and the Queen we have both chosen to serve. We will run to Little Terrielle, or maybe further even than that, and we will be constantly looking over our shoulders wondering what will happen next and if that danger will continue to chase us. Maybe revolution will happen anyway, maybe there will still be a day where we can return, free, to Glacia. Or maybe we’ll be running, and our girls will be running, for the rest of our lives.”

He spoke quietly, evenly, relaying the simple truth as he’d realized it to himself already. “And we’ll always wonder, Janne. We’ll always wonder, and we’ll always miss our home.” He could say more - that their girls were witches of Glacia, a Queen and a Priestess who had been born to help guide their homeland in a new era, that it wouldn’t be right to deny them that if they had this opportunity here and now. But he knew he didn’t need to say it.

Aaryne shifted slightly against Janne so that he could rest his head on his shoulder, slowly breathing in the comfort of his scent as he soaked up the warmth of his nearness. “I’d be going in under the guise of a Blood Male. With no Jewels, there’d be no reason to collar me or really pay any attention to me at all. The first several weeks I will be listening and integrating myself, no risks, just getting established and learning the players. I’ll be sending letters to you, and through you to Signe, fairly frequently. They won’t be directly sent here, of course, but through an intermediary loyal to Signe stationed in Glacia. That I moved away from my family to help support them isn’t an uncommon motive for a Blood Male working in service to a Province Court.”

Offline Janne Hyugge

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    • ss2pd
    • prince
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      First Circle / Teacher

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      Avorla Court

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      Rihland

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      Nemaisare

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Re: The Price We Pay
« Reply #8 on: Oct 15, 19, 03:27:19 AM »
His time with Aaryne was always precious. Not least because the man himself was Janne’s closest friend and dearest love. But Aaryne also had a way of dispelling the little lies Janne told himself. Of daring to bring into the light the truths he was trying to hide. Trying to deny. It wasn’t always something he appreciated in the moment, but it was definitely a valuable gift. More so when he wondered who else would be as straightforward, as patient, as willing, to face the difficulties his reluctance was only compounding.

Now, he tensed at the sight of that little smile, at the sound of hurt exhaled. Wrong. This was wrong. Not just what Aaryne was telling him, but how he was allowing his emotions to weigh so heavily on his husband, who already had the more difficult position. Janne kissed him lightly, leaning in to the brush of lips against his temple, eyes closed tight and arm lifting to pull him in as Aaryne shifted to nestle close. He should be the one offering reassurance. He should be the one encouraging and cautioning. He should be hoping. He should be eager, ready, supportive, wanting…

Instead, he buried his face against Aaryne’s shoulder, hiding the strain of his conflicting emotions in the trail of his lips working their way from shoulder to neck. An apology, of sorts. Silent, because he couldn’t acknowledge the weight of his fears without forcing Aaryne to shoulder them, too. He’d asked the question, but he already knew the answer. He already knew Aaryne’s answer to Signe’s request, too. And he knew his own, no matter how close it came between the options, he could never deny his family their home. He didn’t want to. But he also didn’t want Aaryne to walk into the mouth of a dragon.

I never missed it. If he could say those words without wavering, with the strength of sure conviction while staring Aaryne in the eye, Janne would have been tempted. He already was. But he knew it was more desperate lie than truth. He remembered that little house fondly, and thoughts of the town around it still filled him with nostalgia. The people there were friends, or had been, if they hadn’t been named traitors when they vanished. But a house could be built anywhere, and so could a home. Memories could be carried wherever they went, and new ones could be made, but only if they were all alive and together to make them.

It was this rebellious little thought that made him want to oppose Aaryne’s truth with the claim that abandoning their new home, living with an ear ever tuned to news of Glacian politics, and taking the girls away from everything familiar yet again would be worth it. Just barely. But that was a selfish measurement, he knew. One that took only the possibility of failure and weighed it against everything else. But it was all only potential, only maybes, what ifs and imaginings. Make believe. He would never be able to face his husband and tell him that only his own feelings mattered. So, he said nothing at all, hoping his agreement was implicit in the silence. Let Aaryne have his motivations, and let it be a reminder for himself when Aaryne was gone back over the mountains… It boiled down to acting or reacting, to making a stand or making a run for it. He could hear it in the quiet words. No more running.

Of course, Aaryne wasn’t exactly planning on charging blindly into the fray. Of course, he would know the best way to blend in safely. Just as his earlier denial of Janne’s little lies had pushed him more to frustration and away from the fear, so Aaryne’s explanation of the plan, simple enough though it sounded, worked as he’d hoped. He still didn’t like it, but he’d never expected to. Though the last two words only pushed him back to doubt.

Janne groaned through a sigh as he shook his head at his own thoughts, at the new conflict he’d found. Province Court. Neither word filled him with confidence. He knew the higher one went, the more dangerous it was, but the more information you could gain. That was common sense. He was sure that, in some way, a bigger Court would also be easier to slip in amidst the larger staff. It was a good middle ground. But for all the bad, his mind argued that Aaryne find a District instead; for all the good, it argued that he go all the way up to the Territory, for all he knew that was complete folly.

“It’s useless. I’m already thinking in circles. Ask more and they’ll only grow larger.” Of course, if he didn’t ask, he was going to worry all the more not knowing, but he preferred that, in some way, to fretting over details he agreed with. Second guessing decisions he wasn’t in charge of making was a fool’s errand and a wasted effort. “Rather keep my brain from frying itself. Sorry. I know I asked.” He’d had to, even if the result was less than satisfying, and he changed his mind so quickly. At least some of his concern had been… eased, though likely nothing Aaryne could say would have dismissed it entirely.

It helped, probably, that he knew just how little attention a noble was liable to give a Blood Male, his own experience strengthening Aaryne’s assertions.

“Blood though... I never thought I’d be so damned glad for that discrepancy.” He was grumbling into Aaryne’s hair now, acknowledging a good idea within one that he thought was absolutely terrible, if also absolutely necessary. It was true enough, though, that he’d once felt sorely abused by the system that didn’t play fair in a world where a loved child could be tossed into a lottery with little chance of winning, where the prize was sudden distrust and hurt. Innocent, until Mother Night judged otherwise, but still strengthened by that very symbol of wrongness. He hadn’t been able to understand the meaning, trying to warp it into second chances or needing that depth into the Abyss to wash away the sin. He’d thought he hadn’t been strong enough in his faith. Until he heard the true method of cleansing… Until he’d stood on the outside and knew there was no other reason beyond strength and weakness. A Blood Male was insignificant in the eyes of every authority he’d known.

That very truth would work in Aaryne’s favour now. The rest was real enough. It could work. He told himself that, very firmly. It could work. Of course, it could work. Aaryne would never put himself into a dangerous situation without ensuring some measure of security.

“Is it Thyra making the disguise? Rude as it is, I want to know it works before I let you go.” Janne didn’t bother struggling for more convincing arguments. He didn’t bother asking for Aaryne to find something else to add onto all the rest of the reasons why this needed to be done. Why this was necessary. He knew, after so many words, all of which he agreed with, that more wouldn’t help. He knew he wasn’t going to say no. He wasn’t going to deny Signe the use of a man she trusted this much. And he wasn’t going to like it, but he didn’t have to. Resisting any more would only ruin their time together before he left.

“When would you go?” He knew it wouldn’t be long. Opportunities didn’t last. “No. Later, tell me later. I want to- I want- Darkness, Aaryne, I don’t…” He choked on the words. “I want this, I want everything for you, for them, but if it- If you aren’t there-” Janne couldn’t finish. He only clung tighter. The Glacia he wanted was for Aaryne. If Aaryne wasn’t there, he didn’t care to have anything more to do with it.

One deep breath.

Two.

And he forced himself past the fear, forced the words passed the constriction in his throat. No more. No more setting the weight on Aaryne’s shoulders.

“If- If everything was fixed now, tomorrow- If everything was… right… What would that look like, to you?” An idealistic rhetoric. A matter of opinion. Glacia wouldn’t fix itself overnight. They both knew that. Arguing with faith was slow, slow going. If there was to be rebellion and renewal, it might grow suddenly, but it wouldn’t be a single fight. The scars were already there. But he wanted to hear it again, about what Glacia had been. About what it might be again. Asking Aaryne to remember for him might have been asking for more than nostalgia, might have been asking a little too much. But he had few of his own memories that weren’t marred by an overlay of growing worries or regret. And those were a little too precious to him, to think of them only in comparison with the worst ones.

Maybe a more tangible goal, a visual of what that home was for Aaryne, or something, anything, that wasn’t the Glacia he’d be walking into would break him out of this cycle of calm and panic.

Offline Aaryne Haugen

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    • te2ss
    • warlord
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      WrenStar

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Re: The Price We Pay
« Reply #9 on: Oct 22, 19, 05:39:01 AM »
Janne was struggling and Night did Aaryne feel that as a heavy stone in his chest. This was so much to ask of his husband, of his family, and the guilt ached as a fresh wound -- but he wouldn't, he couldn't take it back. This was something he had to do, and they both knew it. He had no words of comfort that could match the emotion he could put into an embrace, so he didn't try. Instead, he just wrapped his arms around his husband and gently played his fingers along the back of his neck as Janne wrestled with everything he was telling him. He kissed the side of his head and nuzzled his temple, telling him with every touch and beat of his heart: I love you. This is for us. I love you. I promise I'll come back to you. I love you.

'It's useless. I'm already thinking in circles.'

Aaryne gave a small smile that could be heard in his voice. "Don't be too hard on yourself for that now, remember I fell in love with that mind of yours. It's so beautifully connected to your heart." He kissed his cheek, then pulled back, fingers stroking the light scruff on his husband's cheek as he claimed a kiss from his lips as well. "I'm asking so much of you, Janne. It isn't fair of me." He rested his forehead against Janne's and closed his eyes, taking a slow breath before relaxing back to comfortably lay in his arms as the conversation moved forward. It would be too easy to fall into a cycle of apologies and regrets and would do neither of them any good.

"I assume so," Aaryne said with a small nod. "But I'll have more information once I give Signe my answer. I'll admit that after the request was made and initial logistics were discussed, I wasn't eager to stick around. I wanted to get home and talk to you first."

And then he asked the question that Aaryne dreaded answering.

'When would you go?'

His heart shattered all over again for what he knew wouldn't be the last time - and those pieces carved deep slashes on their way down to settle like daggers in his gut at the choked rhetoric that followed.

"Oh min älskling..." Aaryne was up again, straddling his husband's lap so that he could wrap his arms around him and hold him close to his chest, kissing the top of his head and stroking the back of his neck and cross those broad shoulders. He held him close, like he would never let him go, trying desperately not to think of the long months they would both have to suffer without even a fraction of this contact. Long months of darkness without the touch of his love's breath against his cheek, without the weight of him on the pillow beside him.

He did not let Janne go even as the other man calmed enough to push through and ask another, quieter, question that was from just as deep within that beautiful heart of his.

Aaryne smiled against the top of Janne's head, then sat back to be able to look him in the eye, cupping his cheeks with both hands. "If everything was right? Janne, when everything is right, it will be with you. Our family. Home. It will be me and you and our beautiful girls sitting together as a family, where I can hold your hand and our girls..." -his chest ached and his breath caught- "...and our girls can call me Papa. Isana can learn her faith in the caves of our faith. Nadia will learn the land that calls to her. We have no fear that someone will collar us, or our girls, or take them away from us. We will be free, Janne. Free to have our family, and our love, and our lives - without fear thrust upon us like shackles on a fishing boat being told they're life preservers. I will see you smile instead of flinch when the snow begins to fall, my Janne."