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Author Topic: This Garden is Real  (Read 257 times)

Description: attn: Jeremiah

Offline Precious Bannok

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This Garden is Real
« on: Oct 19, 18, 08:32:13 PM »
Another night in a strange place, another night where the dreams came to find her.  Another morning where Precious woke with a pounding heart and moist eyes, though as usual she did not let tears fall while she was awake.  She instead moved to the wash basin, scrubbing at her face and neck as if the cool water could chase away the ghosts of bad dreams.

It was an old habit, but it was one that served her well.  It was routine, and routine could often help her shove such things into the box that could be ignored until sleep finally claimed her again.  It helped, in a way, that this suite was not as lavish as the room to which she was accustomed.  Not that the suite was poor - no… it just wasn’t Hayllian.  That was a point in its favor.  Such lavish and garish rooms were nothing more than gilded cages, as far as she was concerned.

This room, with its blues and grays, was so much more comfortable.  So much more… honest.  She was a guest, and she was given a guest’s room.  That such a thing was strange to her was not the problem of the Court, or the Queen that had offered her Sanctuary.

It was still so odd to think of the fact that she was protected here.  Not just because she was property - for the Queen had ensured she was freed and thus wasn’t property anymore - but merely because of what she was.  A Queen.  She had the feeling she could have been a Yellow Queen, and she would still have been offered Sanctuary. 

So very, very strange.

That very strangeness helped her to settle back into her skin, and choose a darker dress from amongst the clothes that Aurav had sent with her.  This one was barely more than a sheet artfully folded about her body, but it was comfortable.  It didn’t force her wings into odd positions, and it didn’t hide who or what she was.

She was Eyrien.  For the first time in all her years, she felt like she could stretch her wings and not receive pain for doing so.  Not that she would, at least, not outside of her room.  With her luck, she would bump someone, or knock something over, or.. There were a million things that could go wrong.  But she could stretch, if she wanted to.

She could do many things, if she wanted to.  Theoretically.  Whether she could bring herself to risk doing those things was another problem entirely.  One that plagued her, even after a few days here as a guest.

She’d taken to wandering the halls, learning her new ‘home’.  How long would it be home?  She truly had no idea.  The kitchen was one of the first places she’d found - as any Dark Jewelled guest probably would.  Then she’d wandered further, enjoying the twists and turns of the architecture here. 

In her Master’s home, everything had led to the Courtyard, because that was the way the Master had preferred it.  Here?  Everything was circuitous, maze-like.  It was interesting, and proved a fine distraction.  Of course, it was a distraction that led ultimately to a quandary.  When she’d found the courtyard that smelled of earth and flowers she found herself debating amongst the various urges in her head.. She found she both longed to explore that garden and yet couldn’t bear to bring herself to do so.

The soil scented of Rilandra Vlas.  It scented of others, too, but not so many that it would make her think it was available to just anyone.  And even if it was - how would the Queens who cared for it feel if she walked in and sank her hands into the soil?  Those very hands came together, clasping tightly as she looked out through the doorway towards the roses. 

She loved Roses.  Actually, she loved most plants.  Even the prickly ones.  Her hands itched to go and explore every plant this garden held, to learn their secrets and feel their songs stretch across her senses.

That would be rude, however, so she didn’t let herself do it.  She instead focused on the garden.. And how eerily familiar it looked.  This garden had featured in her dreams before, she was certain of it.  One filled with blood, and pain and…

Cassius.

Offline Jeremiah Mercer

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Re: This Garden is Real
« Reply #1 on: Oct 19, 18, 08:39:50 PM »
It was there, of course, an underlying scent within the garden that was not just Queens. No, there was at least one more that tended the garden and smelled of it as surely as his mark was upon the soft earth. Even a selection of the roses, sweetbriers, did so for all that they also hid away a little nook that was all his own. Jeremiah knew well the feel of the earth in his hands; had learned well the true feel of little patches of earth through craft because of his Queen. That was something born of both necessity and time spent together, because when she could not go, when she was unable to travel, it was he who brought back more than just stories and the whisper of the people.

Jeremiah had often brought back a far more precious cargo. The memories of those that had been lost, the cost of being a Queen born in Dena Nehele, the witchblood that had grown from their blood as it had been shed in death.

None of which, in this moment, particularly mattered. The truth was that Jeremiah was constantly busy, more so now than ever as he had fully taken over as Steward and now that Yua no Ariake had signed a contract to serve within First Circle. His time was split between looking after his Queen and his Healer, both important in different ways.  It was the Healer that he often had to look after, one of two that could help keep the Healer moored. Peace, uneasy as it was, had settled over the Territory Court in the aftermath of the Decimation.

Right up until Priestess Petra Constantin had brought a Red-Jeweled Queen to them. One that had been collared and kept as a slave. None of it had set well with him, especially when it became apparent that the Queen was the one whose dream he had stumbled upon. While he was desensitized to the sights that haunted her sleeping mind, it did not mean he was not affected by it. Jeremiah had yet to approach the Queen, giving her space and time to acclimate before he spoke with her about such things.

(Beside that he had to be mindful. Jeremiah could easily stretch himself thin, given the presence of so much miasma about the court. He reminded himself, again, to check in with Orianna and make sure that she was not unduly picking up things as she did in her manner. Though never did he really give thought to himself unless Lisichya gave him a look.)

The hour did not particularly matter at the moment, only that Jeremiah had felt the need to be back within the garden. That if he went, if he pursued the feeling, he would find himself meeting with the Queen called Precious who had been treated as if she were everything but that. She been watchful of him when they met previously throughout the meeting, though Jeremiah's stance was that of his Queen. Sanctuary was what the Queen would have until such time that she could stand on her own.

Pain sung in the air of this hallway that lead to the gardens. No, that was not quite right. Jeremiah was able to pluck it, a finger upon the emotional pulse around him. Combined with his intuition as a Black Widow and it was a guide that served him well. It was not just pain, as that was only a spice within the air, but the other emotions as well. The ones that spoke of wanting to do something but holding back.

Uncertainty.

Turning the corner he was not surprised to see the wings, nor Precious standing there with what was certainly a look of pained longing upon her face.

He wondered ...

Did she remember this place from her dreams?

"Lady Bannok," greeted Jeremiah, announcing his presence. The scent of the garden was twined about him, a natural cologne (though it was not his psychic scent, as that was something else entirely). He swept into a bow, Protocol and Etiquette perfect. "You are allowed within the garden," he said as he came out of the bow, bright blue-green eyes regarding her with a gaze that spoke of Black Widow and Warlord Prince in equal turn.

Another garden, he thought, where every pathway away eventually lead back. Within it was nothing but blood and pain and misery. Few moments to enjoy it for what it was and even those were merely stolen crumbs. Just like the touch of gentle hands, the laughter of a child, the-

Jeremiah pushed the thought away.

“Do you see the roses?” Of course she did, she had been looking, but he would not say such. If she wished to admit it, she could because her mind and words were her own. “The ones that are pink and white? Those are known as sweetbrier and they were not native to Dena Nehele. My family brought them through the Dark Gate, a memory of where they came from, and I eventually brought some here to the Territory Court.”

Offline Precious Bannok

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Re: This Garden is Real
« Reply #2 on: Oct 19, 18, 08:44:04 PM »
You are allowed within the garden.

She tightened her wings about her again, turning to regard Jeremiah Mercer with a quiet look of study.  Just for a moment.  And then she dipped her head, as deep as Protocol demanded but no deeper - and not necessarily for the reasons one might think.

She didn’t do it because she felt the need to do so.  She did it because Protocol was a blanket in this situation.  She was free now.. But had no idea what to do with that freedom.  For all of her years she had been a slave.  Freedom had never really been an understood concept, though she had yearned for the ability to do as she wished.

Quietly, of course.

Those golden eyes came back up to rest upon Mercer’s face, watching with all the attentiveness he probably would be used to on a servant’s face and not a Queen’s… but then she knew that in the depths of her eyes there was something more than servant.  Aurav had found flickers of it, despite her best efforts. 

Stubborn pride.

“Thank you.  I was unsure if it would be… rude… to enter the Garden of another without permission.”  She glanced towards the entrance, and then lifted a hand.  “Would you like to join me, Prince, if it does not impinge upon your schedule?”

Did she actually want the company?  Yes.  She wanted to have the presence of another nearby, and know that if she wanted to she could just leave.  She wanted to find some way to make this Sanctuary feel real.. Because right now it just felt as if her Master had left for business and she had a few scant days to herself.

She knew that wasn’t true, of course, but she still woke and prepared herself for the day as she always had.  She still remained quiet and unobtrusive - still caught herself masking her Scent out of habit before forcing herself to release that spell so that others would know what she was.

In a way, to have that spell gone made her feel more naked than ever.
“Your roses are beautiful.  My fingers have been itching to touch them for some time now.”  She gave him a small smile, stepping into the garden and fighting off the reflexive sigh as the taste of earth and growth struck her senses.  Even if this was the garden of another Queen, it felt comforting.

She wanted to tuck herself down in one of the flower beds and just work, so that she could study him and learn his expressions and habits without being obvious.  She wanted to learn them all, so that she could pass through their lives barely noticed and safe.

She wanted.. She wanted a garden.

The realization made her smile.  “In Hayll, there was a decorative patch that I was allowed to work on.  I always enjoyed that part of my day.”  She just never enjoyed what came after.

Offline Jeremiah Mercer

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Re: This Garden is Real
« Reply #3 on: Oct 19, 18, 08:59:16 PM »
Jeremiah could see it there, had seen it first hand in the dream, what was within the Queen. She was a slave, yes, but there was still someone within who yearned for freedom and fought to keep herself from succumbing. Truthfully, it meant he was more inclined to be considerate. The Healer who carried a piece of his soul within, and him who carried a piece in turn, was the reason.

"It is not a private garden, Lady. There may be portions of it, yes, that speak of belonging to one or another to be tended but it is to be enjoyed by any and all within the court." It was not that she asked him that he joined but that she truly wanted it that he did so. Jeremiah was, ever as always, the picture of a perfect escort as he slipped into place. There were simply too many years with that ingrained into him and being a dual-caste would never change it.

Beside: it would help the Queen acclimate. To lose the spectre behind her eyes that was her former master. Jeremiah saw him there, in the way she looked away and in how she expected it all to disappear. As if this was some elaborate illusion crafted to torture her. Things that were, sadly, far too familiar to him.

"We are in it every morning," said Jeremiah. We, in this instance, was Riley and himself. Yet Precious was still uncertain and so he took care of that by moving them forward and towards the sweetbrier roses she wanted to have a look at. "The other Queens often look in on the garden, though it is a bit later in the morning than when we are."

His head tilted, studying her out of the corner of her eye. Her emotions were interesting, truly, but he supposed that was because he saw the truth of them. Precious was good at keeping them tucked away but not for someone like Jeremiah who spent his entire life looking for the emotional cues that people wanted to not be seen.

It was why he knew that smile was true, even if there was a flicker of something terrible behind it. "You can work in the garden if you'd like." Then, as if considering, he added: "Or - once a proper room is prepared for you - we can see window boxes or things that can be kept in your room."

Offline Precious Bannok

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Re: This Garden is Real
« Reply #4 on: Oct 19, 18, 09:23:19 PM »
“Proper room?”  She paused, gently disentangling her hand from his arm before reaching out to cup the petals of one of his roses between her fingers.  They were so soft.  So very different from the flowers to which she was accustomed.

They were perfect.

“The room I have now is more than adequate.  It is very different, and far less.. Hayllian.  A fine thing.”  She wasn’t arguing.  She kept telling herself that.  She wasn’t arguing, just making her thoughts clear.  Jeremiah Mercer was not Aurav Longinius.  He wouldn’t expect her to cater every word that left her lips to be pleasing to his ears.

So why did she keep trying to do that?

She wasn’t sure.  So she focused her attention on the rose between her fingers, gently petting at the petals before crouching down to reach forward, beneath the bushes, and feel for the mound of earth that hid necessary roots and nutrition.

Her hesitation was only a breath before she tapped into the Opal beneath her dress, half closing her eyes as she let her awareness seep into the ground beneath them.  The Garden thrived, but the grounds did not.  Or rather, they were not thriving as well as they could.

The call to fix that was as ever strong - but she restrained herself.  It wasn’t her place.  She was a guest.  To simply try to fix things without permission would be rude.  So she drew back from deeper in the earth to simply this space, this Garden and its many glories.   She explored each plant, mentally tasting at their scents before finding herself startled, eyes opening and body twisting about to look towards a particular direction.

“What is over there?”  She’d never tasted anything like it.  It tasted of.. Death.  Death and pain and.. Memory.  ...trails of blood on proper tile… “clean it up.  Pretiosa.. attend me.”...

She held back the shudder through sheer force of will, her eyes narrowing as she carefully rose to her feet and brushed her fingers against each other to remove the dusting of soil.

He had said she could go into the garden, and so she strode in the direction that the strange taste had come from.  The Garden was lovely, it truly was.  The burst of color, of deathly bloom, that was the collection of Witchblood?  That not insignificant amount that made her remember every word of warning she’d ever heard about this territory?  It was breathtaking, even as it terrified in its own quiet way.  It also heated her blood, roused her anger, and had her clenching her fists.

“When I was being sold, my Master delighted in telling me that Dena Nehelians were cruel.  Crude, he said, but cruel.  A Dena Nehelian Warlord Prince told me that this territory loves to murder its Queens.”  She turned her head to regard Jeremiah for a few moments.  “Are you the exception, Prince Mercer, or the rule?”

Why did they have a garden filled with the witchblood of the fallen?

Offline Jeremiah Mercer

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Re: This Garden is Real
« Reply #5 on: Oct 19, 18, 09:52:45 PM »
"Yes, proper," said Jeremiah in response, watching her and then listening as she spoke her mind. If it was arguing, Jeremiah did not see it as such. If anything, it seemed like a simple statement of her thoughts, along with the protests of someone who did not want anything or to cause trouble. "You're in a guest room currently but soon enough you'll be moved to one that is better suited and protected."

She was a Red-Jeweled Queen and that required a level of protection and more that a prepared room would have. "So," he continued on, "if you want flower boxes, let me know. I can ensure they're installed. This place, for the time being, will be your home. Let us try to help make it a good one for you."

Jeremiah left it at that, watching as Precious sought out the land. The garden itself was almost a beacon of life, flush with it whereas the land around the court was not. It was not dead but it was not as well-nourished as this place was. The Black Widow Warlord Prince paused a moment, as Precious moved to look at each different flowers and other fauna in the area, and crouched down to inspect the sweetbriers.

Fingers sunk into the earth, eyes sliding shut as he tugged gently on his Rose. Just a soft pulse, a check upon the soil, and he was satisfied that they were doing fine still. Perhaps he needed to see some fertilizer added in the future but otherwise there was nothing to be done but continue their care.

It was as he let go of his Rose that he felt the taste of blood upon his tongue, old and decayed and-

Jeremiah's eyes opened up as Precious was moving with purpose towards the area where witchblood was. The rise of her anger, though hidden behind her emotional veil, was known to him. His jaw tightened as she spoke, blue-green eyes bright and focused.

"I am an exception, not a rule," said Jeremiah, "which is a sad state of affairs." She wanted to know about the witchblood and he knew it. Something like this was a beacon to some, unnerving to others, but to Jeremiah - to his Queen - it was a reminder. (Nevermind that Jeremiah's psychic scent had shifted not so long ago. Once there had only been a hint of witchblood to it but now, as he was both Black Widow and Warlord Prince, it was more; witchblood in riotous bloom.) He moved past the Queen to a patch of witchblood where the earth was more freshly turned, kneeling down and holding his hand over the blooms.

The way he held his hand, the rush of Rose shielding his fingertips, spoke of knowing how to handle it far too well. "My mother's," he said simply enough, pulling his hand away and then looking to another patch. "This one a Queen who did not even make it to her Birthright," his finger moved to hover over another, "this one a Queen who was struck down on the eve of her Offering ..." There were more but each carried the same end.

"I transported and transplanted many of these, bringing them here because Riley did not want to ever forget the cost of being a Queen, of why she carries on as Queen of Dena Nehele. Each of them is a story, learned from those that knew them; each of them we remember because they have to be. They cannot be forgotten. We cannot forget them."

Offline Precious Bannok

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Re: This Garden is Real
« Reply #6 on: Oct 19, 18, 11:29:09 PM »
He admitted he was an exception, and oddly, that was reassuring.  The idea that Jeremiah Mercer was not indicative of his fellows in this murderous land let her know to trust no one else, for no one else was likely to be as honest.  Of course, there was always the chance he lied to her - the chance that he presented himself as a friendlier face when he was just waiting to put her in her place… but she didn’t think so.

She had a long history of knowing when someone wanted something of her.  She might not always know what that something was, but she knew in her bones when they wanted something.  Prince Mercer did not seem to desire.. Anything.  His emotions were cool, muted - not as if he hid them but as if he truly didn’t desire anything other than to tell her she would be protected.

Protected.  Aurav had spoken of protection, a time or ten, but Prince Mercer didn’t sound like him either.  She had to keep reminding herself of that.  Aurav had held the Yellow too.. But Aurav’s Yellow had been the extent of his power, and Mercer’s Yellow was merely the start of his Depths.  That’s what repeated in her head - even if she found herself constantly battling the instincts that said he was just likely to be worse than Aurav if he chose to be.

Was it fair?  Probably not.  Did Precious care?  Not really.  Her world didn’t exist in shades of fair.  Her world existed in shades of survival and the chances of maintaining her own life.  Her world was a ladder of choices that led either to pain, torture, or possibly solitude.  Happiness, joy?  Those weren’t options.  Those were tools meant to soften her up for a worse blow.

They were the tools that Aurav had used to make everything worse, more wrong, corrupted.

So she watched, with care, as Jeremiah showed her the various Witchblood plants and who they had been.  He touched his Mother’s, and those of dead Queens.  This was a memorial garden.  She’d heard of such things, but never seen them. Aurav didn’t ‘remember’ people in such delicate ways.

He’d remembered those he had lost by punishing the Eyrien he had at hand.  She found she liked the witchblood better.  The way he shielded his hands was similar to the way she had once shielded her hands to keep the roses in the courtyard from tearing her hands to pieces.  She raised her own fingers gently, coating them in her Opal and then reaching out to gently set her fingers not on the plants themselves, but on the soil they grew from.

The land beneath these flowers was weeping, but well fed.  The Witchblood, she decided, was an expression of Grief for those who had died. 

“I want to learn how to care for these.”  She said it quietly, raising her eyes to look up at him.  “Perhaps someday I will have my own flowers that are meant to remind me of those that are gone.”

Not loved ones, no..  But perhaps someday, she would have Aurav’s Witchblood to watch over and enjoy.  Living, growing proof that the monster who had terrified her all of her days was finally dead.  Yes.. that sounded perfect.  Her hands withdrew from the ground, and she took a deep breath.

“How do you intend to protect me, Prince Mercer, if this land is filled with Queen Killers?”

Offline Jeremiah Mercer

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Re: This Garden is Real
« Reply #7 on: Oct 20, 18, 09:11:46 PM »
If she had phrased it differently, he might have explained differently, but the truth was that not everyone with Dena Nehele was kind or caring. A bleeding heart often saw someone to an early grave if they did not protect themselves. Worse, however, was the fact that Jeremiah knew he was afforded to be such himself because of caste, station, and otherwise. He would have been the same, no matter his place in life, but it was easier because of who he was and where he was.

His head tilted, a studying glance given to the Queen. Jeremiah no longer kept himself so controlled when it came to his emotions. They flowed free, though he often directed them where they needed to be. Strong emotions had to be watched closely if only because they could overwhelm, and - in a worst case scenario - potentially bring his Healer out wondering who and what it was had bothered him so.

In that regard they were both equally protective of one another. With the changes that had come due to his last rut, it was not truly a surprise. Beside: his mind circled back to Lisichya often enough. Now, however, it was circling around Precious and what instinct and intuition guided him towards as a Black Widow. Nothing was wanted of her other than to live her life and to recover but whether or not she believed that ...

That would take time and learning that here, within this place, she would be able to do so until she was able to move on.

The question of when was whether or not she would see her shadow changed. Jeremiah looked more at her shadow now than her, wondering if she knew that it was not her own but instead her former master's. A conversation, he supposed, for another time and most likely when she was being helped to heal.

"Another time," said Jeremiah, echoing the words of his thoughts, "I can teach you. If not me, Riley could do so." He paused. "There are at least two others that might be able to instruct you but Riley and myself are the most likely." Considering her words, he then added: "You can do that without witchblood. Flowers have meanings, things that we have decided they say, but you can simply pick one and say this reminds me of someone lost to me." The point was this: that not everyone died a tragic death and so witchblood would not be the answer. If she wished to honor the memory of those gone, it was best to do so with regular flowers.

His hand fell away from his mother's witchblood as Precious asked her question, Jeremiah's blue-green eyes focusing upon her. "The safety of Queens was bought with Riley's alliance with the Guilds of Dena Nehele. No Queen is meant to come to harm within this land, not without their being heavy repercussions.

"It does not mean it cannot happen, only that should it happen it is an exception and not a rule." As they had just talked about. "You are protected because you are here because no one will dare touch a Queen underneath the roof of the Territory Court." He smiled then, far too sharp canines visible as he did so. "Unless, of course, they have a death wish as to strike here is to bring their end. So this land is filled with a great number of things but Queen killers are not meant to be among them."

Offline Precious Bannok

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Re: This Garden is Real
« Reply #8 on: Oct 20, 18, 10:32:40 PM »
It does not mean it cannot happen, only that should it happen it is an exception and not a rule.

Precious took a deep breath, looking down at the soil against her fingers.  She was angry.  She was angry, and it surprised her.  She should not be angry, because she almost never allowed herself to truly feel the anger that was likely natural in these cases.  She was not the one who had bartered herself away to guard others in this case - and yet she was still so very angry that such an agreement was necessary.

Queens should not have to risk themselves to keep their Caste alive in a Territory.  Her jaw flexed, her eyes closing again as she worked to regain her calm. 

“A Territory Queen should not have to bend the knee to anyone.  Not a Guild, not a class, no one.”  But after that moment, she raised her eyes to look at Mercer.  “If I can help her, I will do so.  I think.. I think I would like to be of use in a way I choose.”  For the first time in her life.  For the first time ever.

She looked down at the ground, and then rose to her feet so as to brush her hands clean.  “Prince Mercer… I wish to Gift land for Dena Nehele.  I ask nothing for it - but your people are hurting, they will need good soil, and .. and it is something I know I can do.”

She didn’t know the first thing about ruling.  She didn’t know anything about ruling, other than the vague theories she had picked up over the years.  Hell, based on her experiences with Cassius having her as a Ruler would be a terrible idea.  Her eyes closed, hands going up to clasp at her Opal again.

“And I wish to convey my apologies now, before it happens…  Any guards you attach to me are not likely to find it pleasant.”  Precious opened her eyes, looking at him plainly.  She didn't want others to try to attach themselves to her.  She didn't want the responsibility of worrying over others, not ever again.  “I do not know how to be a Queen in the way they will expect.”

Offline Jeremiah Mercer

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Re: This Garden is Real
« Reply #9 on: Oct 21, 18, 12:51:28 AM »
Jeremiah did not argue with her, did not even disagree, because there was no point in doing so. Her anger, hidden perhaps from others, was palpable to him. What he believed, truly believed, did not matter at this moment. Nor would he talk of it right now. Not when this was a Queen who was, arguably, having to learn all over to be a Queen and what it meant to be a Queen free from the binds of her collar.

If anything, it was something to be reinforced but at the moment he simply nodded. "It will not be any other way, Lady Bannock. You are considered a Ward of the Territory Court but how you help, what you do to help, will be all of your own deciding." His eyes watched as she dusted the earth from her fingers.

Before he answered her declaration, that which she wanted to do for Dena Nehele, Jeremiah crouched down to the ground. His fingers buried into the soft earth, curling in it and then straightening as he pulled his hand back. "Watch," he said, as he reached for his Rose to demonstrate something to her. It was the smallest of nudges that he brushed away the earth upon his fingers with craft, carrying it back down to the ground from where it came. "I can show you again later if you'd like, but it helps return the earth from whence it came." A breath was released as he stood back up. "Alternatively, you can shield your fingers with a very fine layer but that cuts back on the ability to feel, in my experience, and is often unwanted by Queens."

Truth be told that Jeremiah's kind care for flora came from his time in the gardens with not only his Queen, who had helped him learn a middling ability with sensing the earth, but with his Priestess mother who had loved and held dear the gardens of their home and the land as well.

"To gift the land is your right as a Queen," said Jeremiah finally, "and to deny you that would be asking you to deny who you are. That said: it will have to wait for now but you'll be able to join the Queens in the garden and speak to Riley about gifting in the future." A heartbeat passed. "You are not wrong that the land hungers but it is greedy and so we must be careful."

Jeremiah watched her and then shook his head. "The guards here are actually quite used to expecting the unexpected. Beside: You may not know what it is to be a Queen, one who is free, but you'll learn here. There's other Queens and you can spend time with them soon enough."

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Re: This Garden is Real
« Reply #10 on: Oct 21, 18, 12:54:50 AM »
It felt to Precious as if Jeremiah saw too far into her thoughts when he looked at her.  She didn’t like it.  She had always felt safer when people could not decipher her thoughts, and yet she knew that in some way, this dual casted male could.  Maybe not all of them, but he knew more than he should.

How?  Why? To gift the land is your right as a Queen.  That statement had her lips twitching in an unmistakably sarcastic smile. 

“Queen’s Right?  There has never been such a thing.  I was not allowed to Gift the land without permission.  Being born a Queen has given me no such rights.” She said it quietly, well aware that she still in a way could not act, or perform, without permission.  That her leash was longer and less choking made her more careful, not less.  Her body hungered to sink into the ground and feed it until the ground could take no more.  Silly thought, she knew that.  The Ground would take, and take, and take some more.  This land was not Hayll. 

This land was harder, more brutal, more hungry.  It was not, however, more cruel.  Even with so much Witchblood, this land was not as cruel as Hayll.  The people here still had their hearts.  That was what made this land so strange, she decided.

Only recently had the people of Dena Nehele ceased the practice of slavery.  How could people who felt compassion and empathy for others have tolerated such a lack of law in regards to the ownership of others?

The same way Hayllians did, she supposed.  Not all Masters were unkind. She knew that.  Cassius had been proof of that - he had not been destroyed until… until he met her.  Her throat worked, swallowing back down the sob that wanted to burrow out of her chest.  Precious was no stranger to holding back such sounds.

It was so much easier to do when someone was not touching her.  Except, obviously, with Jeremiah Mercer.  Somehow, someway, the Black Widow Warlord Prince seemed to see straight through her.  So she turned away, looking over the garden again.  The garden was beautiful, in a strangely primitive way.  Or was it just that the Hayllians tended to arrange everything ‘just so’?  Which did she prefer?

Wild, and free.

Her eyes closed, face tilting up towards the sky as she felt a breeze begin to pick up.  Now, as always, she felt that strange longing to stretch her wings and take to the sky.  But she had no idea how to do that.  And fifty two years of restraint wouldn’t allow her wings to even twitch.  Would she ever fly?

Would she ever dare?  She wasn’t sure.  She had no one to learn such things from, and she had no desire to be so seen.

“I saw this Garden in my dreams.  Before ever I saw it with my eyes.  It was a treasure, and a gift.”  She took a breath, releasing some of the tension in her shoulders before turning to look at Mercer again.  “Was that.. You?”

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Re: This Garden is Real
« Reply #11 on: Oct 21, 18, 02:10:23 AM »
"We worry," said Jeremiah slowly, "about your health and so - for now - it is best that you do not do such things. For that you have my sincere apologies, that you still cannot." Even though he wanted to tell her that she was free to gift the garden, that she could do so if she wanted. It would not be good to do so, not yet.

"... but in time, you will be able to do as you wish." Or so was their hope; the one shared by Queen and bonded Black Widow Warlord Prince. "This place is not meant to be a prettier cage with an invisible collar but instead a place that you are able to nest within, to grow, to strengthen, and eventually be free and never again rely upon anyone but yourself and those that are yours." Perhaps it was true, perhaps Jeremiah could see into her. Or, at least, he understood and at this moment held no shame in taking advantage of his talents as a Black Widow Warlord Prince and what it allowed him to discern.

Such things were why they had made the decision to see her as a ward, much like the Quertis twins. Not that it mattered as Jeremiah watched her, the way her throat bobbed, and her emotions crashed inward. They wanted to crash outward, they wanted to be free, but the Queen kept them locked away because that was how she had survived all these years. It was a wonder there had been no one around her skilled like he was. If they had sensed what he did, the truth of her emotions ...

Well, he suspected that she would not be in this place as she was now. Precious would be in far, far worse shape. His head tilted as she turned back to him with his blue-green eyes glinting brightly. Jeremiah inclined his head, the corner of his mouth curling upward into a sad half-smile.  "My particular talents," said Jeremiah slowly, "as a Black Widow have granted me the ability to do certain things. Brush away a nightmare and push it towards something more pleasant; push out that which haunts minds in sleep so that rest can be found."

That was not an answer but one was coming.

"... and sometimes there are nightmares that are loud, that call me to them, and I see things that should never be seen." There it was again, that piercing, knowing look in his eyes. "I do what I can to soften the blow, to help make the burden a little lighter to carry." Jeremiah nodded his head then, her answer given. "So I did for you, that night, before you even met me."

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Re: This Garden is Real
« Reply #12 on: Oct 21, 18, 09:57:56 AM »
"My health has always been superb."  Her voice remained even.  Conciliatory, even.  Precious did not needle, or whine, and yet... and yet - she was making a point.  A finely honed, subtle, point.  Her health had always been wonderful.  Aurav did not want her ill.  Aurav had not wanted her injured over much - and had always ensured when she was injured that she was Healed properly.

That her mind was not always well would never have been noticeable to most.  Precious knew that - because Aurav had tried for years to break it.  She had some cracks, she was sure, but that did not mean she was broken.  She was likely more cracked than the average person in Dena Nehele, but she wouldn't say that was necessarily a problem.

What harm could she possibly cause?  She wasn't wanting to rule anything.  Precious certainly had no intention of ever having a Court.  She didn't want to be in charge of anything.  She just wanted to Gift the land, and to be left on her own, eventually.  She wanted to not be expected to do anything.  She wanted to learn how to be, rather than how to please others.

She felt a finger twitch as he spoke of his gifts, of how he had been the one to give her the gift of this Garden in her dreams, and so Precious glanced back towards the roses that had caught her attention and helped her let loose the nightmare that plagued her that evening.  She let those same blossoms help her disassociate, let her experience life without feeling it.  "The man in my dream... the one dragged off.. he was mine."  She didn't know if Cassius was still alive or not.

She didn't know what shape he might be in if he was.  She couldn’t imagine that Cassius would be well, if he still breathed, nor could she imagine that he would be sane.  Would she?.  "When we left he was screaming.  My Master is an unforgiving male, Prince Mercer.  I do not have anyone of my own anymore, I think.  Without me there, he would have no cause to keep Cassius alive."  Her eyes closed, remembering that beautiful face as it hovered near her own.  She could remember too clearly those few gentle moments when they had been alone.  She could remember the touch of his lips, and his hands, and the soft hope in his face when he gifted her his little metal flowers.

She'd been used to torture Cassius, and Cassius had been used to torture her.  Was it not better to be pulled back, to be pulled away?  Was it not a mercy for them to be apart?  So why did it hurt so much?  "I do not want people of my own again.  I cannot protect them, as you saw, and so I do not deserve them."


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Re: This Garden is Real
« Reply #13 on: Oct 21, 18, 06:29:54 PM »
Jeremiah did not comment, did not disagree. There was no point as he was not talking about her physical health and he suspected that she knew that for her choice of words was obvious. Her body was strong, it was sure, though her wings longed for a sky they never knew, had been confined in a box in the ground and-

His shoulders rolled, thoughts pushed away as he focused back upon the Queen. Another time, perhaps, he could explain why there were concerns. How a Chalice could be broken so easily as a Queen fed the land, especially after not being free to do so at leisure for her entire life. The simple fact was: those cracks were a problem and could give way to actual fractures.

Lips pressed to a thin line, Jeremiah simply listened as she explained. The truth was that he had seen a great many horrible things in the dreams of others. Whether he talked about it or not, sometimes he did not truly sleep. Not when he spent that time fighting off all manner of dark thought and dreaded night nightmare. The likes of her master? The unfortunate Bonded that was pulled away from her?

He had seen so much worse and it colored his thoughts more than he liked or would admit freely. Enough so he wondered if it would be wise to ask Arkadie to check upon his. A thought for when he spoke with her again.

The memories of her dream were vivid and sharp, cut into his thoughts and never to be gone. "If you wish an answer," said Jeremiah quietly, his fingers twitching slowly, "then one can be found." His gaze settled upon her once more, studying. "Whether or not he still lives." Truthfully, Jeremiah knew the answer but if Precious did not want to know, if she was not ready to know, then he would not speak it.

Not when she had to learn how to deal with the pain of what had been done to her and her Bonded. Truly deal with it instead of pushing it down and down and down until it threatened to choke her.

"You cannot stop it, if Mother Night says a heart is yours, it is yours. In that, she is not kind to Queens.” The words spoken were soft. “You have not been allowed to experience a true Bond, Lady Bannock. Not one that has not been warped and twisted and abused. The Bond, the one between Queen and her bonded, is meant to enable them to be strong for one another, to share strength when one is weak and the other is not, to lift up when it might not be possible.” He looked to the witchblood, then to the rest of the garden, before his gaze eventually settled back upon the Queen. Jeremiah knew that she had tried that, the things he spoke of, even though she believed herself a failure.

“... but,” continued Jeremiah, “we shall do our best to help with that as we can. Including easing your dreams, so that you might not have such thoughts of failure always therewithin. So that one day you might be able to face them without assistance.”

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Re: This Garden is Real
« Reply #14 on: Oct 21, 18, 06:43:32 PM »
...you cannot stop it, if Mother Night says a heart is yours, it is yours…

Her jaw clenched, just the once.  He had a point.  If she could go back, prevent that Bond from ever happening, then maybe … Her eyes closed, shoulders drooping a little.  “I wish he’d never come to the Estate.  I wish I had never..”

Her throat worked at swallowing it all down, but it - she - felt too full.  Everything was bubbling, boiling, and she just felt ready to burst.  It wouldn’t work.  Bursting, boiling, it never worked.  It only got her people hurt.

But she didn’t have people here.  Not really.  No one other than Mistress Petra.  And Petra couldn’t be hurt - not really.  She was free, and she was part of the Court, and… Petra Constantin was safe.

Safer than anyone she’d ever watched over, anyways.

“Cassius…”  She looked down at her hands, studying them.  “Master Aurav made me use my Touch on him.  And then… when he would feel better, the Master would carve up his back.  I can’t… help… people, Prince Mercer.  It goes wrong.  I can Gift the land.  I can feed people.  That is the only thing I have ever been able to do and not hurt people.”

Her eyes closed, fingers squeezing tight.  “My mind is the only thing that has ever been just… mine, Prince.  I’m not sure that I can … I don’t know how to let people in.  It’s all I’ve ever had.  It’s the only thing he ever let me keep.”  It was all that was hers, the only thing she’d been able to control in all the years of her life.

Could she possibly let anyone into her head?  Could she bear it?

“Dreams are… different.  That’s.. It doesn’t feel wrong.  I don’t know if I could let someone in while I’m awake.”

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Re: This Garden is Real
« Reply #15 on: Oct 21, 18, 06:54:19 PM »
Jeremiah shook his head, unable to offer a response than what was already said. It was not the time to say that such wishes were more detrimental than helpful, that they would only cause more pain in the long run. This was not known to him because mind healing was something he pursued but because it was first-hand experience. What ifs were never a good idea. Not when they came to the hurts and anguish of an individual ...

Precious's feelings were spiking, near bursting, and yet she still kept it all contained within. They were a thousand little needles all stabbing at her heart, all because of the pain caused by her master (and the pain he made her cause in turn).

It was a good thing that Jeremiah was still good about keeping tabs on his emotions. Not control so much as redirecting and he did so here, as a rise in anger - cold as his often was, an ever-present beast beneath his skin - would not accomplish anything. So it was redirected towards helping, to guide Precious towards something else.

"You could not help because it was twisted by Aurav. There is no one here that will do such a thing and if they try ..." Jeremiah shook his head. "They will be swiftly dealt with. You are your own person, Lady Bannock. If that means you do not wish to share your Touch, then so be it, but ..." A breath was released. "Do not close your heart, do not shut out what could be, because that will only be another pain to bear."

Still, he heard what she said and he understood it. Jeremiah was learning his way as a healer of the mind. The paths he traveled as such were not the usual ones but they worked for him. "It is not easy to let someone in, not after what has happened," again he thought of Lisichya, who fought so hard against Arkadie despite every reassurance; himself who rose to anger if anyone so much as touched upon his mind, "but perhaps ... something like that can be managed." Jeremiah held up a hand, to halt Precious from speaking yet.

"I am a journeyman, Lady Bannock. If you are implying that you wish me to help, as I think you are, through your dreams I will not do so unless my mentor says it is alright." The Black Widow Warlord Prince was far too cautious, too respectful, to try something without Arkadie saying he would be alright to do so. "What I can do regardless - no matter what - is help ensure you get proper sleep, make sure that bad dreams do not find you. Not like that night, as that one I found after the fact, but ensure they do not find you at all.

"... and we can talk, like this, and slowly work through things as you are ready without touching upon your mind at all."

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Re: This Garden is Real
« Reply #16 on: Oct 21, 18, 07:48:41 PM »
Precious reached up to brush hair from her face, disguising the tremor that always preceded a headache.  Her thoughts felt too full.  Just hearing her Master’s names come out of Mercer’s lips had her knees wanting to immediately bend, but she locked them on principle.  Aurav wasn’t her Master anymore. Petra had seen to that.

It was just habit.  Habit built up over her entire life to bend to Aurav’s wishes, and to not make waves, and… and to to be a good girl.  The idea that she might have others Bound to her made her want to hide in the mountains and never be seen again.

She couldn’t do it again.  She wouldn’t.  What could she possibly offer anyone something other than nightmares and trauma they should never have?  Her fingers locked together, eyes fixing on the roses again.  She fixed them in her sight, memorizing each petal.  Each shade of color, each bend and fold.  The roses helped her calm her thoughts, and push the panic low.

“I would appreciate if your mentor will consider it.  Just… avoiding the dreams will be enough.  As for my Chalice.”  She turned, regarding him with a cool expression.  “Perhaps… if I ever grow to know this mentor of yours, we can discuss it.  I do not think I would ever allow a stranger in.”  No, never a stranger.  She’d kept her mind her own even from Aurav - she would never allow just anyone into her mind.

Her dreams were a different matter.  She couldn’t control that.   Her eyes sought his out, studying the odd mixture of color to be found in his gaze before she nodded once.  “I think I would enjoy speaking with you; though to be perfectly honest I have no idea how to just converse with people.  I didn’t do much of that without having a purpose.”

That purpose usually being to bed and please whoever her Master had granted her to.  Or perhaps earning some nugget of information from their lips that she could pass on to him.  Mercer, however… he didn’t want her.  She could tell.  The signs, the signals, they were all missing.  It was a great relief; one she finally allowed herself to feel.

Mercer didn’t want her.  That made him safe… or safer, anyways.  “Thank you, Prince Mercer.  For the protection you and your Queen offer.  It means a great deal to me.”

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Re: This Garden is Real
« Reply #17 on: Oct 21, 18, 08:10:08 PM »
There was a reason why Jeremiah shifted to referring to him as Aurav and not master or anything else. Better to begin that way, to start separating. Which meant that he could see the way she shifted, the need to take a knee, and it grated but there were things to be done for that.

"Start now, Lady Bannock, to separate yourself. Do not speak that word and his name together any longer. There is no one who is your master, no one who controls you in that fashion. You are your own individual, as it should be."

Jeremiah listened again, watching her closely before he shook his head. "It is-" He paused. "To see you sleep restful, I do not need to do much. Only work with spider silk and leave a dreamcatcher upon your bed." His fingers twitched, thumb brushing along the tips of his other fingers. The phantom sensation of spider silk was often there, a desire to work and weave that was often put aside for other things.

"... but as you have seen I can walk within dreams; manipulate them as well." Which was something, he had learned, not common in terms of skill. What had it been? What had he heard? Dreamwalker? Jeremiah supposed it was better than what he was called by the apparitions within the Twisted Kingdom. Dream Eater sounded ominous. "Through that I might be able to help you but only after talking to my mentor. I do not want to attempt such otherwise."

As it was one such way to do something without requiring her to lower her barriers consciously. Truthfully, Jeremiah did something similar already but ... He had not thought of it as a valid approach to healing someone's mind for all that it clearly was helping Lisichya in small ways. "To heal a Chalice is not something I would do on my own right now, but securing one ... that I might be able to do." That was enough about that for now, he supposed.

"You're doing just fine with this conversation, even if it is not easy for you," replied Jeremiah. "Beside, you could simply talk about gardening or whatever comes to mind. Conversing is not so important as enjoying the company of the individual you spend time with." A breath was released as he thought that, too, was likely not done by her without purpose before here. Jeremiah did not watch Precious as others might have. No, he watched her to see what could be done, the ways that he could find to help. The Black Widow Warlord Prince looked within, not the outside, and so his queerly bright blue-green eyed gaze was piercing.

"You should never have to thank for such a thing but ..." A half-smile was given; it was a look of reassurance. "You are welcome, Lady Bannock. We are glad to do what we can."

Offline Precious Bannok

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Re: This Garden is Real
« Reply #18 on: Oct 21, 18, 08:14:43 PM »
Precious felt her lips turn up in a smile as Mercer accepted her gratitude, her eyes refocusing upon the roses.  Could she simply enjoy the presence of others without fear?  No, not really.  There was always something to worry about, at least within her own mind, and to just let that caution go seemed downright unnatural.  Still, Mercer had a point.  Perhaps she should try to do the ‘unnatural’ thing in this case?  Perhaps it was better to throw caution to the wind if she was to learn to be free?

“It is strange here.  I am not used to being known as a Queen you know.”  She raised her fingertips to touch a nearby flower, feeling the velvet petals against her fingertips.  “It is still surprising when someone refers to me as such.  Slaves knew, after a while, but they knew better than to say anything or act as if …”  She paused, frowning a little.

“Well, that hardly matters now, I suppose.  People do know now.”  A deep breath was evident in the way she moved before maneuvering herself in front of Jeremiah Mercer to study his face.  “If anyone Bonds to me, Prince Mercer…”


She cleared her throat.  “Will you please see that I do not act… poorly?  No one should suffer for my failings; not if it is something they have no control over.  I do not know if I will be acceptable for such things for some time yet.”

Not when she could still feel Cassius’ scars beneath her hands, or taste his sorrow on her lips.  Not when she could still hear his screams echoing in her ears, forever and for an eternity, just because she was so terrible a Queen.  She should have been able to help him.

She should have saved him somehow… but …. But Petra had said to not harm anyone.  She would never get Cassius’ ring without violence, and she knew it.  So she had left him.

She’d left him, and his screams would never leave her.  She closed her eyes again, drifting back towards the roses he had said came from across the Gate.  Precious set gentle fingers to the flowers, then tested the leaves.  “The soil here is good.  Have you considered growing grapes to make your own wine here at the Seat?”  Was that a change of topic?  Yes.

Was it obvious? Perhaps.  But she needed to get her mind off of Cassius.  She needed to bury that pain deep before it made her scream.  That behavior would be unacceptable.  Even here.  The people here in this place?  They seemed to pride themselves on being strong, and untouchable.  Well, most of them anyways.

Not all of them.  But of those she saw regularly?  Pride.  There was definitely pride here.  It made her a little leery, truthfully.  Aurav had pride too.


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Re: This Garden is Real
« Reply #19 on: Oct 21, 18, 08:16:51 PM »
"People know," agreed Jeremiah, "and you are not a secret to be kept, to be hidden away. You are a Queen, Lady Bannock, and Queens are meant to be known even if sometimes that is the exact opposite of what is wanted." As certainly there was a Queen out there that did not wish to rule, that did not wish to be known. Precious did and Jeremiah knew there was

There, on the tip of his tongue, was what Jeremiah wanted to say. That he had dreamed and dreamed deep and he knew that the best path was not always the obvious path or the easiest. Especially so when one had been traumatized for so many years. Not when Precious still felt pain in her Touch for all the comfort it could actually give to those whose hearts she held, would hold, in her hands.

"I will endeavor to do my best," said Jeremiah, "and keep an eye on things. Do not worry about it so much. If there was truly an issue, a problem that would arise, then it would be known and I would take the necessary steps and precautions." His fingers twitched then and for a brief moment there was a bit of spider silk wrapped around his finger for all that it quickly vanished once more. Jeremiah was primarily a dream seer, his visions literally the stuff of dreams, but that did not mean he did not weave webs with regularity. (As such often happened when he was with Claudia and they were discussing what was coming, the Sapphire Black Widow far better at seeing the bigger picture and capturing it versus him who often found himself stuck on the details).

"The best thing that you can do," he continued, "is focus on the future. Let the past be the past and focus on what will come now that you are free." Jeremiah was well versed in topic changes, though he merely raised an eyebrow at the mention of a potential vineyard. "Most vineyards are actually in Tulzbruja, Prince Cutrov's family is known for them." A pause. "Lady Volkov, the Head of House? Her family also does business in such things, though I believe they primarily sell versus actually make their own."

Not that Jeremiah was not paying particular attention to Precious then. The unspoken things within her and the emotions she tried to bury. Someone else would see the surface and nothing below it but not him. No, as a Black Widow he saw what was beneath better than ever. So much so that the image flickered in his mind's eye of Precious, fallen to the ground, hands pressed to her head as she let out a scream.

Yet no sound came from her throat.

"So we do not actually consider it but that's just because ... yes, the soil is good, but we would pull far too much from it if we were to keep a vineyard. Perhaps, however, once things have settled you can see Tulzbruja and the farmland there. It is very lovely with the coming of fall." The look upon his face said this: Jeremiah was content to let Precious continue the farce but he knew. He knew and that at some point, someday soon, she would have to talk about it.

Offline Precious Bannok

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Re: This Garden is Real
« Reply #20 on: Oct 21, 18, 08:28:24 PM »
The best thing that you can do is focus on the future.

Did he realize just how difficult that would be?  Her ability to focus on the future had only ever been focused on how to best minimize the horrors that her Master would bring down on her head.  She'd never had the luxury to think of a different future... not unless one counted the silly dream of an island that she and Cassius had shared.

But that?  That was not something she wanted to discuss.  That dream had been a pretty little lie to give them some comfort when the world itself seemed to want to strangle the both of them.  It had been comfort, a place for their minds to retreat to, while their Master did whatever he wished to their bodily shells.

Precious didn't want to share that - or revisit it.  It wouldn't be the same without Cassius.  Instead of relief, it would bring only sorrow and anxiety.  Neither of which would be useful in this situation.

"A small vineyard would do well here, I think."  She rubbed her fingers together, feeling the grain of soil and clay between her fingertips.  "In Hayll, I most often Gifted vineyards.  There was a small garden I was allowed to tend when the M... When Lord Longinius was busy."  She corrected, seemingly without concern.  Yet inside?  Inside she flinched.  Twice.

Once for the mistake of nearly calling him a Master again, despite Prince Mercer having just said she shouldn't.  And again for the concern that Mercer would notice she had flinched in the first place.  She 'knew', of course, that he wouldn't punish her for the misstep. 

She knew, but she did not feel that truth.  Mercer's kindness wasn't real, not yet.  Lady Vlas' kindness wasn't real.  Not yet.

Petra?  Petra's kindnesses were real.  She expected good behavior, and a lifting of her social power due to Precious' actions.  Petra made far more sense to her than anyone else in this strange territory. 

How could those who had never tasted a collar ever expect to understand one who had?  And how could someone who had only ever tasted the collar be expected to just suddenly understand freedom?  No.. she didn't need to understand, not yet.  She simply needed to do, and to behave, and to learn.

Those were three things she was certain she could accomplish.

"Dena Nehele is much cooler than the south of Hayll.  Your growing season is likely shorter.  Perhaps.. in the spring, I could attend the vineyards in this... Tulzbruja?"  She knew vineyards.  She knew grapes.  They were a presence that was almost comforting - because Aurav had always left her alone for a day or two after her Gifting to his fields.

He called it a kindness, but she knew what it was.  He didn't want to 'hurt' his Night's Gifted Blessing too much, not when she would truly be vulnerable and likely easier to Break.  He hadn't wanted her 'Broken', not in Jewels at least. 

"If it would be no trouble, Prince Mercer... I think it is time for me to take a bit of a repast.  Is there anything left of breakfast this morning, or might I be able to get a little something from the pantry?"

Her skin felt tight asking.  How many times had Aurav kept food from her?  Too many.  They aren't the Master.  They won't do that.

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Re: This Garden is Real
« Reply #21 on: Oct 24, 18, 05:35:37 PM »
There would be nothing that could stop that flinch, both the one Jeremiah visibly saw and the one that he knew she felt within. It was the same reaction that he had had - still had - when someone uninvited tried to touch upon his mind. The way that Jeremiah immediately went on the offensive whenever he sensed the slightest bit of Craft that spoke of manipulation or compulsions. Such things were triggers and only time would see them eased.

Just the same that Precious would eventually learn that there was nothing to fear here. No punishments would come, no hand reaching out to strike her. It was simply Jeremiah instead, watching her with understanding in his eyes, not pity. He did not say anything and merely nodded. There had never been a collar around his neck but he had known what it was to be restrained. To be locked away and kept in check, to watch from the inside as his body did what was commanded of it. To scream and scream and never be heard because no one could hear.

More than that: Jeremiah knew the touch of nightmares. Within him were so many not his own. The feeling of a collar around his neck, of shackles around his wrists and ankles, of bindings holding him down- Jeremiah knew these things and felt each keenly. It gave him perspective, it gave him understanding, and it was why he knew that this process would take time. Precious did not even know what being free meant, let alone what it meant to have a day to herself and not have to worry about how Aurav would expect her to behave.

All it would take to start was simply taking it day by day and that, in the end, would be enough. Jeremiah knew she likely found thinking of the future to be daunting but just moving forward, thinking of herself and her next action was the first step in doing so.

"When the Spring comes, I am certain something could be arranged. There are trips that have to be made there regularly so perhaps in time you might be able to come along." Once she had an assigned group of guards in rotation, as all of the Queens did. For Precious's sake, he hoped that Mother Night was kind and that none found their heart in her hands.

Jeremiah did not particularly like what his Black Widow senses plucked from that question. The feel of hunger, the knowledge that food only came when Aurav had been pleased, but even then it might have simply been scraps. (Worse: he thought of Lisichya and his own issues with hunger. How it was sometimes there were moments where the Healer did want to eat because of the monster that still existed in his mind.)

"Come along, Lady Bannok," said Jeremiah finally after a moment, "I will show you the family wing and its communal kitchen area. Lady Sala always as something prepared as we feed many a darkly blessed and some of the cinnamon rolls I made were still left as well." His head tilted, studying her before adding: "Should none of what is there suit your fancy we can simply find something that does."

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Re: This Garden is Real
« Reply #22 on: Oct 24, 18, 06:00:44 PM »
Lady Aleia Sala.  The Ebon Gray Hearth Witch, that was all she knew of the name.  That the Territory Court had someone so dark to act as a ... mentor?... to its wards told her a great deal.  This place was a place of duplicity and murder - she had no doubt that the Lady Sala was not just a Hearth Witch.  There was a reason the Court had such a Dark female in charge of their precious children.

Precious.  She winced at the thought, though the wince never crossed her face.  She hated that word.  She hated her name.  It reduced her to a thing, an object, a... dog.  At least the other slaves had actual names, but her?  No.  At best, with the more formal 'Pretiosa', she was still just a 'thing'. 

And she could never bring herself to say Pretiosa aloud.  She'd already decided that - if the Court knew of her formalized name, they hadn't used it.  To be fair, they used her formal honorific, not her first name.  She much preferred the use of a name that had never been applied to her during her years - "Lady" being at the top of the list.

Until that odd Warlord Prince in Hayll, she'd never been 'Lady' as anything other than a rude joke.  That everyone here used 'Lady Bannok' made it easier to remember this was not Hayll, that these people were not Aurav, and that she might actually have a chance of never being put in a Hole again.

Habit had her falling in slightly behind Prince Mercer.  It took a moment for her to realize that wasn't correct, and she silently forced herself to walk beside him instead.  Her wings twitched, just once, and then she simply lifted her chin.  She would not apologize for the habit.  She would not... unless he told her to. 

"I am not picky, Prince Mercer.  Whatever the kitchen has available will be more than suitable."  She'd eat anything.  Anything at all, because it was better than eating nothing.  But she didn't want to explain that either.  Bad enough that the Lady Petra knew her Master had starved her to 'motivate'.  She didn't want her past laid out like some tragic play in order to entertain and disturb the people of this Territory.

She didn't want to be known at all.  What she wanted never seemed to matter much in her life.  She was simply fortunate that she hadn't been asked to play whore since arriving, as far as she was concerned.  "Will I be staying in this wing when a room is picked, then?"  Her head turned, every once in a while, as she observed the rooms and halls they passed through. 

She was memorizing things.  Precious needed to know how to get to wherever she needed to be, how to find 'safety' in a world where such a thing was rare and usually a lie.  But sometimes? Sometimes a lie was what kept people sane.

"It seems... warmer here."

That much, at least, was true.  She was an empathic soul - something Aurav had made sure to develop just so that he could enjoy tormenting her with other people's misery.  There was a reason for her pleasant yet oddly blank faces.  It was the only thing she could do to protect others.

But the warmth here?  That did more to convince her that perhaps it was not a completely savage territory than any amount of words or observation could.  Emotional warmth was difficult to mimic - and she would know.  She did it often enough.

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Re: This Garden is Real
« Reply #23 on: Nov 05, 18, 09:10:54 PM »
There was an Ebon-Gray Hearth Witch at the Territory Court because it took an Ebon-Gray to corral and handle that many wards. Also her references were impeccable (ignoring that it also just so happened that her paramour was practically an uncle to both Jeremiah and Riley).

Jeremiah actually waited, deliberately slowed his steps, until Precious was walking beside him. Even when Lisichya had worn his collar, when he had been considered a slave and such was alright within the Territory, Jeremiah had never let someone walk in his shadow like that. It was inappropriate, in the extreme, and grated on the very fiber of his being. It was one thing when Protocol and Etiquette dictated something and another entirely that someone was forced to do something because they were a slave.

In case anyone had missed the memo: Jeremiah abhorred anything that stripped away consent or otherwise invalidated someone having a voice. It was such an important thing to him that to even talk about such practically invited Jeremiah going on for quite some time.

"You do realize," said Jeremiah, "that you can be picky, hm? That you can say what you like and what you don't like and if there is something that you prefer to eat, we can do our best to get it." For all that Precious did not want to expose her past, Jeremiah still read all the cues and behavior far too well. Not that he would show pity or otherwise, out of respect, but he would remind, as he was inclined to do, that things were different.

She would just have to slowly learn that.

"You will be, yes." There were two different hallways that he pointed to, both of which lead to the open common room area that held a kitchenette in it. "Most of the wards are on this side," said Jeremiah, pointing to a hallway and then the other, "and then the Queen and her Court along the other." Jeremiah smiled, expression pleasant and full of warmth. "It is, yes. This ... a family area, Lady Bannok. While there is always a way of things, how things should be handled and the like, such things are often shed here because we are meant to look after one another." Considering the fact that there was a couch and a table that held various things, from multiple people, it indeed did look like a shared space full of familial warmth.

"Let me see what there is left and we shall see you with something to eat."

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Re: This Garden is Real
« Reply #24 on: Nov 05, 18, 11:03:40 PM »
You do realize that you can be picky, hm?

She hesitated, just for a step, before resuming her slow pace besides Prince Mercer.  Had she realized that?  Precious wanted to say that 'of course' she did... but the truth was more murky than that.  She'd realized that Prince Mercer might expect her to know that - but that didn't mean she truly believed she could be.

"There were moments during my life where my M... Where Lord Longinius would present a situation that seemed too good to be true, Prince Mercer.  He would say something like that - that of course we could do something pleasant... and then when we would move to do so we would be punished most severely."

Her voice came out quietly, head shaking.  "It is hard to imagine that I could be given something to eat that I find displeasing and actually be able to request something else."  And by hard, she meant almost impossible.  Oh, she had seen Free guests of the Master do that sort of thing all the time - though Request was not the word she would have used in those situations - but that didn't mean that she would ever be allowed such leniency.  No... she knew better.

But here?  Dena Nehele was strange.  He pointed out the halls, which one was the 'family' hall and which one was the Wards.  She would be in the Wards area, she was sure.  That was for the best.  Being that close to the rulers of the Territory would likely make her never want to open her door.  There was just too much that could go wrong.

Her eyes took in the 'common' area, the various personal knick knacks that were left in appropriate places for whomever they belonged to - and she found herself wincing at the very thought of doing something like that.  She didn't own... anything, really.  Everything she had here was given to her by her M.. by Lord Longinius.

So she sat, when Prince Mercer asked her to do so, and she considered that problem.  How was she to fit in here if she didn't have anything so simple as a book to set down?  How was she ever going to mimic the free nature of these people if she had no props or tools to use in order to do so?  That would be unacceptable.

It was one of the first things she would have to rectify.  Her eyes lifted as Prince Mercer came back with tea, and stew, and she gave him a careful smile.  "Prince Mercer?  If it would not be too much trouble.. might I be able to obtain some shawls or scarves?"  Something pretty, delicate.. something easily moved if necessary - something that would help her hands stay busy and keep her from looking like a frozen statue should she ever be in this room while others were around.

Something to make her more normal... wings not withstanding.  She did her best to smile, to nod, to make small conversation.  But even Precious could tell that she had a long way to go.

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Re: This Garden is Real
« Reply #25 on: Nov 07, 18, 10:39:38 PM »
Jeremiah paused himself, head tilted just so. It was a different sort of Jeremiah that watched her then, one that was more a thing of the Twisted Kingdom than the Black Widow Warlord Prince that walked the halls of the Territory Court. He did not expect her to know some things, as there was a reason for his gentle verbal nudge and the reminder that here it was different. Yet it was her words that had brought his sharp gaze forward, what she had said and what had not been said.

"I will not state this often, as I feel it is better left unsaid, but I know. Not every little detail, but the sweep of his presence across your life and your mind, the shadow that he leaves upon your dreams. I know so very many things that haunt you, Lady Bannok, and you do not have to explain yourself to me." His gaze was unwavering upon her even as it softened to something considerate, sympathetic, understanding. "As I know that means I make sure that you know that it is different here, that that shadow is not allowed to pale you any longer. It will not be an easy thing, it will take time, but there will be a life for you out of his spectre, a time when your throat will no longer catch and another word is said when you speak his name.

"Lord Longinius is no one to you now, if that is what you want, and should you forget this, I will remind you because he may have hurt you, he may have done a great many things, but you are destined for so much more." Jeremiah saw too much, knew too much, and he truly wished for Precious to simply try without the pretense of having to explain or otherwise. If she could simply be then that, as far as he was concerned, was a step in the right direction.

A breath was released, expression fading away into something softer and less soul-piercing. The cinnamon rolls that he had mentioned were left, of which he set the plate down on the table before he was searching out the prepared foodstuffs that Aleia often had for those that were darkly jeweled. Once there was stew and tea, he moved to sit as well. Just like the other things, he could see why she would want something of her own. Jeremiah caught the way that she gazed upon the bits and baubles that were about; knew the look upon her face far better than he'd like.

She was not the first he had ever seen it upon.

"Coincidentally," said Jeremiah with a warm smile, "it is no trouble whatsoever. Fabrics and textiles are what the Mercer family is known for." There was something particular about the way he prepared his tea; only a dash of cream went into it and the honey was rather purposely pushed away to not be used as a sweetener. "I can speak with my chamberlain," as he had to put one in place at Sweetbriar, "and have some things brought for you to look at."

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Re: This Garden is Real
« Reply #26 on: Nov 08, 18, 07:07:21 PM »
You do not have to explain yourself to me.

At first? Precious almost worried that she was about to be put 'in her place'.  That look on his face was familiar - not Aurav's look, no, but his sister Cornelia's - and then he softened his expression.  If she hadn't known better, she might think he actually meant his sympathy. 

Then the Prince kept speaking.  He didn't just say  his words, but spoke with conviction to prove he meant them.  He spoke of how he knew it would take time, how he knew she would slip, how her Master was a shadow upon her life.  He knew, and she was not quite certain how.

Just because he had been in her dreams?  It couldn't be that simple.  Nothing ever really was.

Her eyes slid to the side, and she pursed her lips.  It wasn't that she didn't believe his words anymore.  She believed them.  But she wasn't sure how she was supposed to move forward.  Precious didn't want Aurav Longinius to mean anything to her.  She wanted to forget him.  She wanted to forget all of it.

But how could she push her past to the side, and move on with her life, when she had nothing to compare him to?

Those were the thoughts that plagued her as she waited for food, and those were hte thoughts that kept her quiet while they ate.  Prince Mercer actually surprised her, speaking up about her request for scarves.  "That would be very kind of you, Prince Mercer. This Wardship that I am under..."  She blew across her spoon, cooling the stew a bit.  "It is meant to ensure that I learn in safety, yes?  I wish to learn how to make things.  Cas..."  She cleared her throat, feeling the way her chest tightened all too painfully at the thought of speaking his name.

"Cassius... could draw so beautifully.  He would make these little sculptures out of spoons, and he'd turn them into flowers, and..."  She cracked a small smile.  "I never learned to make anything."  No, she'd learned how to apply bandages, and healing salves.  She'd learned how to survive from one moment to the next.. but there had never been a moment when she felt safe enough to live by finding something she enjoyed.

Well, something outside of sex, anyways.  That had been a relatively safe thing to enjoy - mostly.  If Aurav didn't get involved.  She didn't want to go into those details, however.  Not while awake.  Maybe not ever.

"I think... I would like to learn.  To make things."

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Re: This Garden is Real
« Reply #27 on: Nov 10, 18, 08:54:39 PM »
Jeremiah listened to her, watched as Precious processed and worked through what was said. He pulled a plate before him, a cinnamon roll placed upon it and cut into pieces with a fork. The Queen with her Red was given considerably more, the Black Widow Warlord Prince well-versed in the hungers of a dark jewel. (And while he was considerably lighter, the fact that he called upon his craft more now than ever lead him to eat more often himself. Something that was neither here nor there but a fact all the same.)

It was not as if things were easy, Jeremiah knew that. He could still barely shake the shadow that had been left over him, the knowledge that his mind had not been his own and another had had control over it for a large portion of his life. Still: if Precious was strong, if she was certain, Jeremiah had no doubts that she would be able to shed the past and walk into the future.

"In safety, yes. Grow, learn, be able to find yourself. When you do, when you can stand firmly on your own, there will no longer be a need for your being a Ward of the Court any longer." A fond smile grew on his face at the mention of sculptures of spoons, though he was also pleased that Precious was able to say the name of her bonded. "Perhaps it is a trait of some bonded then," mused Jeremiah, "as when we were younger, I often made mobiles and similar things for Riley out of the," his lips twitched, "extra and unnecessary silverware." Which was one way to refer to the fact that the aristocracy had so very many spoons and forks and knives and each with a different purpose to serve. Whereas most simply had the basis: a fork, a spoon, a knife, of no particular or pointed use other than eating.

For a moment he considered arguing but pushed it aside. Later he could contest that she had not learned how to make anything but this was not the time to do so. Now was the time to encourage her forward. "Whatever you might like to learn, something can be arranged. Certainly, we have a library that you can make use of. An instructor and a tutor as well." Jeremiah smile. "Even if it learning how to work with fabrics or something similar, it can be done. If no one here knows, someone can be found for you."

Then, after a moment, Jeremiah added: "It can be daunting, even intimidating, but you have the freedom to choose what you want to do. All you have to do is decide and if that involves exploring various crafts and sundries? So be it."

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Re: This Garden is Real
« Reply #28 on: Nov 11, 18, 02:20:50 PM »
The thought of making her own clothes was appealing.  She even let the spark of interest appear on her face - though it felt wholly unnatural.  Showing interest in anything had usually resulted in massive disappointment.  This?  This was an effort to break through her self-imposed rule of isolation in an effort to grow as he called it.

"I think.. I would enjoy learning to make things more complicated than scarves.  There are many beautiful dresses I've seen since arriving but.."  She let loose an amused laugh.  "They would not fit me well.  Dena Nehelian dresses are not designed for those like me."

True, Hayllian styles weren't designed with her in mind either but .. Hayllian dresses tended to leave as much skin as possible open, and so there had been plenty of open backed clothing she could wear with no problems and only mild changes.

Not that she'd gotten to do those changes herself.  Aurav had hearth witches for such things within his stable.  She spooned some of the stew into her mouth, taking care with her manners to do exactly as she had learned so many years ago.  She wasn't to look rushed, or as hungry as she was.  She was to seem at ease, and to seem comfortable - even if most of her wanted to shove as much of that food down her throat as she could.

There was no telling when her next meal would be - until she'd arrived here.  Food was always available here, but finding the nerve to go and try to get it took a little while.  Her eyes lifted, studying Prince Mercer as she ate in companionable silence for a little while.  He was such an odd person - to be fair, most of the Dena Nehelians seemed to be a bit odd.  They wanted, and they desired.. and then they didn't reach for what they desired. 

She'd learned that the Aristocrats tended to - but she didn't seem them often enough to make a judgement on them yet.  Though, she supposed, Mercer himself was such a creature.  But again - as he'd already said once - he was an exception to the rule.  In all things?  For now, she would assume in all things.

"Prince Mercer.. it occurs to me I do not know the rules regarding guests."  Her head tipped to the side.  "Am I allowed to take guests to my room for the night?"  Was that too blunt?  It didn't occur to her that it would be.  In Hayll, bedroom games were simply assumed.  On this, at least, she felt comfortable discussing things.

Even Aurav had allowed her to take guests to her bed if she was not assigned a 'client' for the evening.  "I know that I am a Ward but..."  But frankly, she didn't like sleeping alone very often.