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* Plot Information for Glacia

For years, the Dark Religion has persecuted the Light Jeweled with its doctrine of stigmatization. Under the messianic Queen Elisif Brenden, it has flourished, ensuring Glacia’s success in other fronts. But upon her death, a line has been drawn and forces beyond Glacia’s borders are gathering to stop its theocracy once and for all.
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Author Topic: Pearl of the Stars  (Read 677 times)

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Offline Ulric Lindgren

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Pearl of the Stars
« on: Dec 18, 18, 12:56:59 PM »
While Matias had personally approved of the meeting between Maarika and her twin Magdalena, who was a guest of the Territory Court to ensure Maarika’s succeed in Nharkava, Ulric did not like the idea of this meeting.

But luckily, Matias was not overseeing this meeting, and that left Ulric with the opportunities to scour it for advantages down the line.

Chosen because no one would invade their privacy, his office had been layered in sensing spells in case Maarika attempted something drastic. Ulric did not think Magdalena was enough of a threat, either by knowledge or personality, to attempt something foolish. At first, he had thought that her meekness was a display, but after months of watching her and quietly probing, he knew that it was truth. Oh, she would most likely do something foolish one day, when she finally grew weary of being in her gilded cage, but it would be ineffectual and pathetically underwhelming. Ulric did not waste any more of his precious time considering her into his equations.

Though he had a black jacket draped nearby, the dark blue vest with white shirt over his black pants were plenty formal for this occasion, which was supposed to be informal. He was merely a chaperone. A very interested one. What would the women talk about? Magdalena’s contract as painter for the Court seemed hardly riveting a subject. And Maarika would hardly be so open to voicing her true thoughts about running Nharkava on behest of Lady Brenden. Just thinking about that sweltering, backwater jungle of a place made Ulric’s back twinge with imagined sweat. While he hoped that he would glean something useful from overseeing this interaction, he doubted it greatly. Alas…

A servant would see Lady Maarika in first, where she and Ulric could briefly talk about the state of Nharkava, before Magdalena was seen into the room. The low table had plenty of refreshments available and Ulric, on his best behavior, had not spelled any of them with anything unkind. No, that would have been juvenile and expected. He wanted the women to feel a sense of security and ease, even if it was a guarded one. Maarika would most likely distrust him no matter what he did. She was a shrewd Queen and he could appreciate that.

He was reviewing a contract between two major trading companies who wanted to expand into another region when a soft knock came to the door. “Enter,” he said, his voice velvet on stone. He did not set the contract aside until he had come to a stopping point, making a notation that the contract could be passed on to the next person in the chain of business. Only then did he look up at the exiled Lady Maarika, Queen of Nharkava. His smile was practiced warmth that did not exist anywhere within him as he rose to offer her his hands, palms up, showing his support. "Lady Sydan-Harmaa," he greeted her. "It is a pleasure to see you again."

Damn Protocol for demanding he prostrate himself before the unworthy.



Offline Maarika Sydan-Harmaa

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Re: Pearl of the Stars
« Reply #1 on: Dec 20, 18, 06:54:30 PM »
Maarika had to work harder than she liked to control her pace and bearing. After requesting this meeting via correspondence with Prince Saari, Maarika had done her best to put it out of her mind completely, lest anticipation and impatience drive her mad in the days between that correspondence and the promised visit. Her return to Glacia should have been a happy thing. She should have delighted in seeing the horizon filled with snowy peaks, to feel the air dry and brisk against her cheek. She should've been glad to see the familiar sight of the houses and estates here, the architecture that was so airy and light compared to the earthier structures in Nharkava. Even if none of that had delighted her, she should have inwardly enjoyed the impossible-yet-somehow-true revelation that Elisif Brenden had returned to the Darkness. She'd been stunned to hear of her passing - as much of Glacia seemed to be. It was understandable that her pregnancy had been kept a secret, considering her station, yet even in that delicate condition it was hard to imagine anything tearing through that implacable will and glacial resolve, even Death itself.

But Maarika wasn't thinking of any of that, wasn't enjoying any of that. So close to seeing Magdalena, she felt herself shrinking to a sort of tunnel vision, such that by the time she was seen into the appropriate room, her hand was squeezing Severin's arm hard enough to leave a dent.

To say that she was surprised to find only Ulric Lindren in that room would not be untrue, but it was so far from adequate, too. She hesitated, a rare moment of speechlessness, before she lifted her chin and focused keenly on the Prince before her.

"Prince Lindgren," she greeted him, watching him as he rose. He smiled and offered his hands, and Maarika stepped forward to greet him as expected. She wore what had been called her Glacian smile, which is to say not much of one at all, but enough of a shift to her lips to fulfill the obligation in polite company. "It is indeed a pleasure. Forgive my surprise, but I was under the impression I was to see my sister," she explained, the words bereft of any real apology. It was a demand as sure as the day was long, though couched in enough politeness to alleviate her of blame if he took it poorly.

"Has something changed?"

Offline Ulric Lindgren

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Re: Pearl of the Stars
« Reply #2 on: Jan 14, 19, 02:24:09 PM »
As Maarika stepped into his range and accepted his greeting, nothing in Ulric’s demeanor changed to her querying about why he was here. He did not give her an answer to that, just yet. Just before releasing her hands, he looked over her shoulder at her escort, and said with pleasant politeness, “You may go. Your Lady is quite protected with me. You can wait outside if you would like.”

Her smile was practiced, polite. She was not pleased to see him. Ah, well, not many were. And, if he were to be truthful, he was rarely pleased to see anyone either, save those who were about to bring him some sort of good news. Unfortunately, good news – and the advancements that went with those moments – were few and far between this month. Ulric instead took pleasure in seeing others’ hopes dashed.

Lady Maarika held little love for Elisif. The Gray Queen had sent her packing to Nharkava after the Opal one could not produce the scoundrel Jonothan Harmaa. Her own husband. How a holy female lost one of her males confirmed what Ulric suspected: that even though Maarika was a very good ruler, she was up to something. Ulric had little doubt that Maarika knew exactly where Jonothan was the entire time Elisif had interrogated her. In Ulric’s mind, the woman had probably arranged for him to escape before justice could be served, knowing that Elisif would not demand that justice extracted from her sister Queen.

It was too bad. Ulric would have enjoyed seeing their goddess dismantle this woman piece by piece.

Yet, Maarika had endured, despite all of the obstacles thrown her way. Endured and even thrived, in some circumstances. Nharkava, the weak and errant Territory that it was, was starting to show signs of promise. Glacian rulers were in place and quelling the rebellions. Ever since the Lady Brenden had wiped out that mutinous Court that had sought to ransom her parents, Nharkava had lived only by the grace of Glacia. No Queens but Glacian ones to sustain the land. No rulers but ones approved by Glacia ruled. Maarika, by all accounts, was advancing the Glacian agenda just as she was supposed to.

Except that Ulric did not trust her as far as he could throw her.

She would show her true face one day. For now, let her wear the mask.

“Nothing has changed,” he assured her, motioning for her to take a seat. “Prince Saari passed along your request to me, since he has other matters to attend, and I am merely the designated escort for this meeting. I assure you, you will get to see your sister.”

“I was hoping that, before she joined us, you could update me on the state of Nharkava. I do read your reports but perhaps there are things better said in person and not hidden behind words on a paper. One never knows who is spying on one’s mail,” he said, casually taking the seat across from her. But then, the moment he relaxed, he immediately moved again, leaning forward towards the table between them. “Oh, my manners, Lady, I apologize,” he said. “Can I offer you some refreshments?”

He had not forgotten in the least but the admission made him look less perfect and people trusted a person who admitted their faults and made amends. It showed integrity.

Not that he cared a bit what it showed. All he needed for it to do was work. He knew Maarika would be uncertain of his presence and he wanted her to doubt herself. She was the duplicitous one, not her. He wanted her to remain in doubt about his true intentions – and hers. It was a long game he was playing in the hopes that she would one day slip up somehow. And once he caught it…

Offline Maarika Sydan-Harmaa

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Re: Pearl of the Stars
« Reply #3 on: Jan 16, 19, 05:36:51 PM »
The Warlord Prince at Maarika's side did not move in response to Ulric's dismissal. He remained there, stone-faced and iron-willed, while Maarika silently navigated the internal recoil she felt at having another male order hers around. She watched the Prince before her while he moved towards where he would sit, while he oh-so-casually revealed that not only would her visit with Magdalena have a chaperone, but that the meeting would wait until after she'd revealed to him whatever must have been left out of her briefs on the state of Nharkava.

Ironically, it was only Severin's continued presence that kept Maarika from losing her proverbial shit.

She was keenly aware of the volatile Red Jewel at her side, and how closely tied to her state of being he was. Severin, more than any of her other males, lived in that feral place near to the beast that resided in the hearts of all Blood men, and it wouldn't take much to summon his ire despite how inconvenient or damaging that ire might be. So Maarika steeled herself, drew in a careful, subtle breath, and forced herself to maintain the appropriate level of calm.

She smiled, then. It was a sudden, intentional thing. Pretty as a picture and well-practiced, but the way she'd summoned it so quickly was surely a warning as to its purpose. Certainly, that purpose was not to spread affection, as a normal smile might do. No, this was something sharper. Something darker.

"Prince Lindgren." Her enunciation of his name was slow, careful. She spoke at a volume just below a conversational level, the sounds of her dulcet voice gentled even a touch more than normal. "You have my deepest condolences on the recent tragedy. We have all felt the loss of our guiding star, and despite how certain I am that Lady Brenden is now at peace with Mother Night and surely reaping every reward due a life of devout service, the loss of her influence is truly a wound that will ache for all of us for a very long time. As close as my sister Queens feel to me at times, I know that those of you here in Vaasa, who worked with her daily, must feel the loss even more keenly than I. All things considered, you are handling yourself admirably for what must be a devastating turn of events."

The pause there was not accidental. However, nor was it an invitation for him to speak. She continued, whether he began to do so or not, her gaze intent and cool and wavering not at all.

"I will assume that it is grief which has made you forget the order of things, and that understanding breeds an easy forgiveness. However, I must remind you that it is not for you to dismiss my escort. You would provide adequate protection should you escort a Lady, I have no doubt, but it is ever a Lady's choice as to whom holds her arm.

"Furthermore,"
she said, taking a step forward, though she did not yet accept the seat he'd offered. "I left my sister in the safe-keeping of our Queen while I was tasked with the dangerous work of bringing Her will to the people of Nharkava. As the regular reports have shown, I have performed on every measure set out for me. I have transformed the landscape of the Territory one seat at a time and I have primed the nation in preparation for the Coven's work to reap its maximum benefit. I have shed. Blood. I have razed. Families. I have bent every Nharkavan knee I have encountered and I have done it all for the glory of Mother Night and her Queen whom She sent to us." Every word chiseled away some of the softness in her voice, until the last syllable was nearly a hiss.

"Not only am I a Queen of the Blood, Blessed by the Night Herself with Jewels that prove Her favor. I am also a proven servant of Glacia, shown a patriot at every trial put before me, and I am not here to play games of politic with you, Prince. I will have the respect I am due. If you are done insulting me by insinuating that I have hidden something from my Queen and my country, then I will see my sister now."

Offline Ulric Lindgren

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Re: Pearl of the Stars
« Reply #4 on: Jan 17, 19, 11:54:34 AM »
Her guard remained, as Ulric half-expected. Ulric maintained his casual posturing, as though nothing that was about to happen was out of the ordinary for him. When Maarika smiled – a practiced, perfect, but fake thing with how fast she summoned it – Ulric didn’t flinch.

She offered him her condolences on the loss of Queen Brenden. That was how she began. Already, Ulric knew that it was a setup for a verbal castigation. Her words began too low, too casually, circling around the bush she was ready to beat into submission. As she continued through this boring foreplay of words, he returned her cool gaze with his own stormy one, a finely crafted mask that hid what he was truly thinking. When she paused to launch herself into that final climax, he didn’t attempt to interrupt her. He knew she was not done.

No, it was not grief that had made him forget the order of things.

Ulric did not forget. He simply chose otherwise.

For every line she launched at him, inwardly he had a rebuttal:

“I left my sister in the safe-keeping of our Queen…”

Oh, her precious but lacking, Light Jeweled twin was still safe and would remain that way, so long as Maarika performed her duties.

“As the regular reports have shown, I have performed on every measure…”

Yes, but she could performed more.

“I have shed blood…”

Not enough blood.

“I have razed families…”

That deserved that fate for their defiance.

“I have bent every Nharkavan knee that I have encountered…”

And yet, Nharkava still fights.

“…with Jewels that prove Her favor…”

Barely. An Opal was no Gray. Mother Night had granted her favor to this Queen but begrudgingly. And the fact that her twin had failed to acquire that blessing told Ulric that the Sydan line had many stains on their souls.

“…shown a patriot…”

Ah, there was something. Patriot. Oh, what a delightful word that Ulric wanted to throw back in Maarika’s face. Yes, she performed. Yes, she served. But she had failed, in some very important measure, and Elisif Brenden knew it. That was why the Kerava estate was burned and Maarika was sent to Nharkava. Queen Brenden had her suspicions about an impossibly pristine Maarika and sought to flush them out.

She hadn’t had the chance to do so before her demise. But it was a burden Ulric gladly accepted.

“I am not here to play games of politic with you…”

Oh, but she would.

“If you are done insulting me by insinuating…”

By now, Ulric’s mind had moved into a perverse sort of pleasure with the situation while his expression was a perfectly crafted one of amicable remorse, as though he realized he had transgressed but was still trying to maintain a polite and positive expression. He enjoyed that he had riled up a Queen – no, that he had riled up her. Her initially calm voice had worn away to one of restrained fury, though not raised in volume. That she was a slave to her emotions amused him greatly. And insulted him as well. To have a Queen, who was, of course, the highest of the Blood hierarchy, berate him, an Ebon Gray Prince who was the Steward of the Territory that she owed her very existence to, so openly and cleanly, as though she had a leg to stand on, as though she was blameless in the sight of their goddess…

With a snap of his fingers, he could turn her into ash.

He wished he could remind her of that.

Unfortunately, the consequences of either action – death or rebuke – would pile a headache of troubles upon him and, most importantly, see him removed from his seat. So, while Ulric calmly imagined what it would be like to fuck Maarika over his blackwood desk and then snap her pretty little neck the moment she reached orgasm, Maarika came to the conclusion of her tirade and demanded to see her precious, unspoiled little sister. Now.

There was a moment of absolute silence, the quietude that heralded a storm. Weaker men would have shit their pants at that moment, realizing that they had just unleashed a fury and were moments away from a violent demise. Weaker women would have gotten on their knees and begged for forgiveness in any form possible. Ulric just watched Maarika for that long, simmering moment, compartmentalizing all of his thoughts about her, packing them away into a nice little perfect space to unpack and review later, and then said:

“My apologies, Lady. I overstepped my boundaries.”

An apology that meant absolutely nothing except that Protocol demanded it.

Mother Night, spare him from these unworthy.

Ulric tilted his head to the side and looked at the door as if he was listening to something on the other side of it. After a moment, his stormy gaze returned to her. The mask of etiquette never cracked. “Your sister will be here shortly,” he informed her.

Then, even as he motioned for her to accept the seat she had so rudely declined earlier with her tirade, he rose and vacated the space, returning to his desk as though nothing was out of the ordinary. If she demanded that he leave, he would calmly inform her that her request was not possible, because of his late Lady’s orders. If she insisted, Ulric would reverse Maarika’s prior words about her sister being entrusted into Queen Brenden’s care, making the point that he took great responsibility with that care. He would not insinuate that either Maarika or Severin meant Magdalena harm but neither would he back down. The meeting would be chaperoned.

Maarika could win her earlier battle, but he was in it to win the war.

Offline Maarika Sydan-Harmaa

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Re: Pearl of the Stars
« Reply #5 on: Jan 24, 19, 11:43:11 AM »
It was difficult to say what, exactly, played a larger role in Maarika's decision to berate an Ebon Gray male of the Blood to his face. Was it the tangle of castes that assured her that she was worthy of his respect regardless of his Jewels or his views on the matter? Was it her longing for her sister, and bitterness sprung from having the prize of that reunion put off yet again? Was it her breeding, all the long years of growing up in a Glacia that promised her that she had certain rights simply because of who and what she was? Maybe it was as simple as ego, and the Prince had tread on the last nerve of a woman who was accustomed to being treated with a certain amount of reverence. Whatever the cause, she did not so much as flinch, not even when thrust into that moment of tempestuous silence once she'd finished speaking. She held the Prince's gaze with a level, steady one of her own, and waited for his apology as though she knew it would come.

And indeed, when it did come, her expression softened and her bearing shifted back to something more conciliatory. The words he gave her were rote, merely the required response. But he played the role well and allowed her no foothold on which to stand in judgment, as far as decorum dictated. She gave a gentle nod, as though the matter was beyond them now and they'd returned to where they'd begun. She knew better, though. A man of Ulric's power who could master his temper and ego so fully as what he'd just done was a rare thing. A dangerous thing, potentially. Something to remember, she decided.

"As I said, it is easily forgiven," she told him, her voice once more an even and soft thing. He assured her that Magdalena would be present momentarily, and only then did she take the seat he'd indicated for her. Back straight, she turned in the seat so that she could still see him despite his return to his desk.

"Is there something in particular you were hoping to discuss, concerning Nharkava?" she asked him, while they waited. "I have trusted the Territory's couriers to take proper care with my letters, so I have not felt the need to obscure their contents any more than normal. If you know of something that has made you doubt my forthrightness in my reports, Prince, we may discuss the matter."


Offline Ulric Lindgren

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Re: Pearl of the Stars
« Reply #6 on: Jan 30, 19, 03:18:12 PM »
He barely gave attention to her words that his…transgression…was easily forgiven, given the circumstances and stresses they were placed in recently. She knew nothing of the hundred calculations and factors he kept track of in an attempt to anticipate and counter each turn of the road Glacia walked.  During this tumultuous time, until a new Queen was installed, it fell to the three Ebon Grays – truly, just the two since one was seeing to his grieving brother – to maintain order. As it had before, but the mind could only continue so long without the heart, and, as much as Ulric chafed at the chain, the Queen was that heart.

He almost thanked the Darkness for small mercies that he would not have to serve Maarika as her Steward. Then he remembered whose name was at the top of the list to ascend to the vacant throne and he discarded all gratitude in general.

Mother Night rewarded him anyway.

Lady Sydan-Harmaa fell into the first of his many traps he would lay for her in the coming months – the nagging belief that he, and others, doubted her ability to bring Nharkava to heel. “Is there something in particular you were hoping to discuss, concerning Nharkava?” she asked. She trusted the couriers enough to be open with them, which was a foolish thing to do, given that Nharkava was a dying wolf that could still bite.

Ulric looked up at her from his latest readings, gave her a politely innocent smile, and said, “I was merely offering you the opportunity, Lady, in case you felt it was necessary. As you have stated, there is great unrest in the Territory. I was only offering you the safe space in which to speak, in case you did not trust those couriers. One never knows when a message containing confidential information might be intercepted and fall into the wrong hands.” He paused a moment, gave Lord Savela something that might have been interpreted as a concerned look, but then molded it back into that neutrally polite mask. “Please forgive a Prince for meddling. My concern is only for your continued success and safety.”

It wouldn’t the first lie he told her that day, nor would it be the last, as he said, “You are important to us, Lady.”

There was a brief knock on the door and then it opened. Ah, just like he had planned it.

Offline Magdalena Sydän

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Re: Pearl of the Stars
« Reply #7 on: Feb 20, 19, 04:30:00 PM »
Magdalena had waited for what seemed like decades for this day to come.

Ever since Matias had told her that Maarika was returning to Glacia, albeit for the funeral of Elisif Brenden and staying only a short while afterward, after he had told her that they could see each other, each day had been a slow torturous game of filling the hours until that meeting. The first day, she had painted but the second day, she had been too distracted to paint so she read a book and took more than one walk in the gardens. This sort of activity increased until she was taking five walks a day, and found herself pacing in her room when not outside.

She didn’t mind when they told her that the meeting would be chaperoned. It made sense that it would be. As delighted as she was about the meeting, she was still a guest of the Court. That reminder only dulled the brightness of her mood a little and all it took was for her to think about her twin again to counter it.

The morning of their meeting, after forcing herself to eat breakfast, Mags returned to pacing in her room until she was called and escorted towards the Steward’s office.

Prince Lindgren was not a warm man. Magdalena hoped that his office wasn’t cold like him. Absently, she tugged at the thin cardigan she was wearing.

The guard grunted softly when they reached the office door and motioned for her to knock. Before she had heard permission, the guard pushed the door open for her, unveiling the office with its blackwood desk and shelves and the Steward sitting behind that imposing desk, the low couches made for idle conversation, the table with refreshments waiting to be consumed, and—

“Maarika!”

Magdalena’s delighted cry filled the room as she rushed across the threshold to greet her twin, heedless of formality or audience. The moment Maarika’s scent, both psychic and physical, hit her, Magdalena felt so much of the tension she had been carrying these last few weeks – no, months – evaporate. Just the presence of her twin, despite all of their differences in Castes and Jewels and paths in life, could do that.

“You’re here! You’re really here,” an excited Magdalena breathed after hugging Maarika close. “I’ve missed you!”


Offline Maarika Sydan-Harmaa

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Re: Pearl of the Stars
« Reply #8 on: Apr 09, 19, 04:25:23 PM »
"Then as you wish, it is forgiven," Maarika told him, a light smile on her lips and all due cordiality in her bearing. She wondered if it grated on him as badly as she hoped it would to be forgiven not once but twice now for missteps in this conversation. She didn't know him well enough to be able to peer past that cool facade he presented, but she sincerely hoped it rankled the shit out of him. His decision to turn Magdalena's visit into a chaperoned affair had made her want to be petty towards him, apparently.

Maarika stood when the knock at the door heralded Magdalena's arrival. She'd only just turned to face the doorway when a force of energy and familiar blonde hair bounded into her and wrapped arms around her. Maarika responded in kind, both arms snaking tightly around her sister for the first time in far, far too long. She felt her voice catch in her throat, she for a long moment she held there, letting that missing piece of her heart settle back into it proper place.

*Oh, Magda,* she whispered into the other woman's mind while simultaneously sharing all of the wordless grief that was assuaged by the Healer's presence. When she finally allowed Magdalena to lean back and look at her, her eyes shone with tears in spite of the smile on her face. This was the point where Severin moved, turning to put his back to the couch so that he faced Prince Lindgren's desk. The escort folded his arms, his tall frame an imposing one, and unapologetically settled himself into the position of human shield in order to afford the women some small dose of privacy. If Ulric wanted to watch the women with his eyes, he'd have to suffer the burning glare of Red Warlord Prince while he angled to look around him.

*Are you well? I've been so miserable without you, Magda. They haven't mistreated you, have they? Tell me everything. Please. Everything.*

Offline Ulric Lindgren

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Re: Pearl of the Stars
« Reply #9 on: Apr 19, 19, 12:08:33 PM »
How intriguing, the differences between these two women that looked exactly alike. The differences in their Castes, and how that had begun the divergent paths they would take. The differences in their Jewels, just one rank apart, and how that had reinforced those differing courses. And then, the differences in their personalities, perhaps a further side effect of those separate ways.

How had Maarika developed such a firmly polite stance to her mannerisms and speech, and yet, her twin had developed none of that? What quirks to the personality had produced the joyous cry from Magdalena but had barely elicited a smile of excitement from her twin? Surely, it went far beyond nature versus nurture.  What life experiences had crystallized those changes? Oh, the intriguing questions to be answered.

Ulric sat, watching this initial interaction, with his fingers steepled and a critical eye taking in every movement, every word, every inflection. There was a small smile of his face that could be interpreted as either polite, depending on how much one wanted to project positively upon Ulric, or smug, depending on if one disliked him.

When Severin moved to block Ulric’s view of the women, the Steward of Glacia tilted his head to the side just a few degrees, and said nothing, that critical gaze and frozen smile turning to Severin instead.

Ah, what a perfect little guard Prince Raine was playing today.

The two men stared at each other for just a moment longer than was polite but not nearly long enough to be considered aggressive. Prince Raine was Red Jeweled Warlord Prince, who, if given the avenue to engage in combat, would give Ulric quite a challenge, even with his Ebon Gray. So, after that tense moment, Ulric casually dropped his eyes and returned to his work, letting Prince Raine have the field. When no verbal conversation began spilling forth, Ulric considered activating some of the spells in within the room that would detect psychic conversations along a certain threads. He was immensely curious as to what the two women would discuss but also knew that it would most likely be very, very boring. Besides, Maarika was not foolish enough to discuss intimate politics with her twin that was under heavy guard, no matter how close they were. Plus, Ulric’s spells did not work on mind-to-mind specific communication.

Thus thwarted, but not frustrated, Ulric took out the first page to review and mostly ignored whatever was happening between the two women on the other side of Severin Raine.

Offline Magdalena Sydän

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Re: Pearl of the Stars
« Reply #10 on: Apr 19, 19, 02:19:35 PM »
The feel of her twin’s arms around her, the brush of that familiar mind against hers – tears sprung to Magdalena’s eyes. The cobweb and silk feel of Maarika’s mind now that she had let her most trusted circle know that she was a Black Widow might still feel a bit new to Magdalena but the rest of it was…

home.

If only for a moment.

The wordless grief that tumbled into Magdalena’s mind mirrored her own anguish. Mags might be able to lie to everyone else around her and say that she was fine, she was fine, there were people worse off than her, etc. but with Maarika, there could be no lies. Without her twin, Magdalena had been bereft of some vital part of her and agonized over that distance in the darkest corners of her mind. If anyone asked, she denied it, even to herself, but she would not deny it now.

**I’m well, I’m well,** she answered, the tears bubbling into her mental voice as she wiped them away. **They haven’t, they haven’t mistreated me.** It was mostly true but it also held a bit of…reluctance. It was true that she hadn’t been mistreated – not in the technical term of the word – but…she had not been content here.

**Oh, I’m being greedy,** she said to her twin as the two women took a seat on the couch, still holding on to each other lightly. Mags dabbed at her eyes. **What should I have expected, being in this place? It would never and will never be our house. But they haven’t…no, they haven’t done anything to treat me ill. They…** This close to each other’s mind, Maarika could see the polite coldness that everyone treated her with, keeping her at that arm’s length. The terse conversations with the guards that escorted her about, the servants that served her with courtesy but no warmth, the meetings with…

No, there would be a turning to the memories at the arrival of Matias. First, they would appear along the same chilled strain as the other memories but then, as Magdalena recalled them walking through the gardens, there would come a soft breeze of warmth, like the stirrings of spring.

Magdalena dropped her eyes, uncertain. **They aren’t…all…bad,** she whispered. **Prince Saari has been…kind. Well, as kind as one can be in this place, I suppose.** Between the thoughts of Matias and the work she was doing restoring the estate’s paintings, those seemed to be the only bright spots to the last year of Magdalena’s life. Someone might have seen that as inviting pity but Magdalena saw the lack of eventfulness as simple and grateful. Things could be a lot worse for her.


Offline Maarika Sydan-Harmaa

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Re: Pearl of the Stars
« Reply #11 on: Aug 19, 19, 11:26:49 AM »
In some ways, Magdalena was an incredible liability. Maarika's love for her and her tendency to relax in her presence had been good things, once upon a time. Now they were dangerous. It was too easy to sink into that familiar warmth, and for a moment Maarika forgot where she was, and what wolves lingered nearby. For a moment, nothing in the world existed except those two hearts, so long separated in ways to which they were unaccustomed. Maarika focused on soaking up everything Magdalena shared with her, both forthrightly and the things hidden between the lines. The mention of Prince Saari wasn't overlooked, nor was the hesitance around that name. Maarika knew her twin well enough to understand the degree of optimistic sfumato involved in her retelling, and accepted that even though Magdalana wasn't happy, she was at least still safe

The Queen's wits had returned to her more cleanly by the time she began to share her side of the last months with her sister. She retold a veiled and coded version of events, invoking a cryptic system of communication the two had used as children to thwart an overbearing mother's attempts to control their relationship. She felt that if she and Magdalena could recall the intricacies of that old language, they could perhaps use it in their mundane communications, going forward.

She confessed that things in Nharkava were weighty and stressful, but Maarika drew strength from the court that surrounded her, and was making do. Her soul was heavier now than it'd ever been, burdened with responsibility for a difficult situation that often felt largely beyond her control. She persevered, of course, because failing to do so had never been an option for her. As much as it ignited a deep and terrible ache in her to be reminded of how incomplete she felt without Magdalena, the nearness to her now strengthened the Queen. She would go away from the visit with her resolve renewed and her priorities unquestionably straightened.

Even so, saying goodbye to Magdalena again felt like tearing off a limb. Maarika bore that wound in silence and with outward grace, even leaving the Steward with a cool smile and a thanks for his time. She'd staunch the pain until safely ensconced in the privacy of her coach, where Severin would guard her while she bled tears into his arms.