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Messages - Sarina al-Sabbah

Pages: 1 2 3 4 »
1
Pruul / Re: Bread and Gravy
« on: Nov 08, 19, 12:02:29 PM »
Sarina made a noise that was part wry laugh, part strangled hiccupping sob. "I don't think your sister finds any comfort at all in my presence Lord Lirion. Except maybe just a little talking about the books she has been kind enough to loan me. Most of the time it hurts her to even think about me, let alone actually look at me."

It was an effort for the young Queen to not flee –not that she was made uncomfortable by either the big Warlord or Lady Naya, but rather because she didn’t want to burden them with her problems when she knew that they had problems of their own.

“As for me...I — she — I wish —” Sarina drew in a steadying breath and finished in a rush, “Lady Sabbah is bright and beautiful and brave and she makes me think of my best friend, the one I didn’t protect, didn’t avenge.”  The one, whispered the traitorous little voice inside her head maliciously, I might have been falling in love with.

“I could have protected her, should have helped her, but I was scared and I didn’t want to k—” she broke off her sentence abruptly not ready yet to admit to her great sin of losing all control of herself. “I didn’t do it and she paid the price for my cowardice and I never got the chance to tell her I’m sorry.” She pressed her face into Theo’s neck, her next words muffled. “I don’t want it to happen again.”

When she looked up, her eyes were dry again,  but the pain was audible in her voice. “I wish Lady Sabbah would trust me, but how can I hope for that when I don’t even trust myself?

2
Pruul / Re: Can You Drown Under Waves of Sand?
« on: Oct 05, 19, 09:20:14 PM »
Sarina silently followed Ehsan with her eyes downcast as he led her to a courtyard where Danyal waited. Her heart tried to be happy to be together with both of them, but then she realized that Danyal stood with three saddled horses.

Why did they choose horses when she was so very afraid of them? The Queen started to wonder if she'd ever told them about her fear but decided it didn't really matter if they knew or not. Rasheed knew she thought. He wouldn't have let them do this to me. A fresh wave of depression swamped her as she wondered if her earliest Bonded would have even cared – he had abandoned her after all.

She didn't protest as Danyal embraced her and lifted her onto the saddle. Maybe she would get lucky and fall off and break her neck and have her problems solved for her.

She was even more quiet if that was possible as they rode through the city at a walk; she hunched her shoulders and trembled as she curled in on herself as much as she could over the horse's neck hoping to hide her face. It was a pointless, futile effort. Sarina was certain there were dozens of unfriendly eyes on her, eyes that judged her, eyes that found her weak and wanting, eyes that hated her.

Come on! she urged them silently. Take your Price from me. Just leave Danyal and Ehsan alone. They had no part in my failure.

As they left the city and began riding at increasingly faster paces, Sarina couldn't help the instinct to clutch tightly at both saddle and reins despite feeling like she'd be better off falling.

There was a small part of her that had the presence of mind to be grateful that the horse she was on was willing to follow Ehsan's horse without input from her because she was incapable of giving the creature direction. There was an even smaller part of her that was enjoying the fresh desert air in her face and she could feel the wind trying to sweep away her malaise if even just temporarily. Unfortunately the weight on her heart was too much for the wind to even budge and it was a quietly weeping young woman that Ehsan helped from the saddle when they finally stopped.

Danyal lifted her chin and Sarina willed her tears to stop, feeling ashamed of her weakness.

"I have something I need to tell you, Sarina, and you, Ehsan, but I need you here to listen, not the shell she's been turning you into."

Sarina lifted her hand to the one under her chin, shifting it so she could clutch it to her face even as she held out her other hand to Ehsan, feeling a desperate need to surround herself with them both.

"I – " As she spoke for the first time in days, Sarina's voice caught and she had to swallow and cough before she could try again. "I'm…. I'll try Danyal."

3
Pruul / Re: Can You Drown Under Waves of Sand?
« on: Sep 30, 19, 09:26:11 PM »
She barely even looked up as Ehsan came striding into her room; his presence was familiar and welcome enough that it was only the abrupt way that he slammed her door closed that got a reaction through the apathy that engulfed the young Queen.

“Change, and quickly or I’ll strip you myself.”

Sarina blinked at her First Escort, confused by his words and not a little nonplussed by the clothing he had selected. It was a favored outfit from before she came to Onn and far plainer than anything Lady Shira had deemed appropriate for a Queen to wear.

Ehsan didn't seem to be in the mood to be patient though, and as he came towards her, Sarina scurried to follow his instructions, taking the look in his eyes to be impatient anger.

She had just picked up the clothes her Bonded had chosen for her and was about to turn her back to him out of a sense of modesty when Ehsan said they were leaving the city for the day. Sarina stared at him, sudden hope rising painfully in her as the Queen clutched her clothes to her chest. They were going out in the desert?! Even if it were just for the day, it would be wonderful.

Ehsan crossed his arms curtly and Sarina turned to change as her heart plummeted into a pit of despondency.

At least her simple gown was easy to shrug off as she suddenly felt numb. Cream colored cotton fabric pooled at her feet. Perhaps I can talk them into leaving me behind when they return. She shivered as a frission of hopelessness rolled through her as she hurried to finish dressing. Maybe she could slip away without them noticing? At last she stood beside Ehsan, fully clothed and head still bowed, waiting for something.

4
Pruul / Can You Drown Under Waves of Sand?
« on: Sep 26, 19, 09:55:56 PM »
Set about a week after https://www.bloodrites.net/pruul-42/shred-my-heart-and-eat-it-with-sauce/



She. Had. Failed.

Every thought of every day circled back to that one.

The Queen was certain she saw derision or hatred in every face she saw, especially the one that looked out of her mirror every morning that showed both in ever increasing measures.

Prince Matin’s presence in her room and in her life was a constant hammerblow on her heart and Sarina couldn’t look him in the eye. It wasn’t easy avoiding someone who had moved into her suit but Sarina was giving it her strongest effort. She checked each morning and each evening to make sure she hadn’t dreamed that he was still alive, but other than that Sarina pretended he wasn’t even there.

Nightmares plagued what little sleep she managed to get. Food tasted like sand and sat  in her stomach like rocks.

Whispers followed her as she walked the hallways of the Sabbah Residence, even when no one else was around.

There was no comfort to be had from her males. There was no comfort in solitude.

Even making herself bleed only brought a fraction of a moment’s distraction.

Now though…

Sarina hadn’t eaten in almost three days. She’d been pushing food around on her plate until her males were distracted and she could vanish it. Guilt over that horrible waste threatened to make her buckle under the weight she carried on her soul. There were still people starving on the streets of Onn who would probably kill for the food she threw away. Every time she did it, Sarina couldn’t stop herself from digging her nails into her thigh until blood welled up around them. There was something wrong with her. Didn’t they see that? She didn’t deserve to eat, but Danyal and Ehsan wouldn’t stop putting food on her plate.

Sarina had memorized every crack in the wall by her bed over the last two nights as she stared at it through the night. Sleep wouldn’t come to her. She dug her nails into the cracks and pulled at the stones until her fingers bled. She didn’t manage to make so much as a single new crack, but seeing her blood smeared on the wall brought her the slightest measure of peace before she guiltily vanished the blood and pressed her fingers into her mattress to staunch the blood.

Morning came and Sarina dressed mutely. Breakfast was served and Sarina couldn’t even bring herself to pick up the fork. She simply turned away and moved to sit in her window without a word.

I’m done pretending. If I don’t eat it, surely they’ll give it to someone who deserves it. Then I won’t have to feel that failure at least.

5
Pruul / Re: Message In A Bottle
« on: Sep 15, 19, 03:02:04 PM »
She hadn't been sleeping well or eating much in the days since she had agreed to exile her long lived clansmen.  She had stayed up all that first night to write to her allies in Askavi, to practice that horrid, soul-killing speech and to pray that her people — Mother Night they had been her people and she’d failed them — would listen to Ehsan and Danyal and prepare to go to the Izar instead of trying to fight or stay. New homes could be made, her people were irreplaceable and they hadto survive.

The first time she had read aloud the proclamation she was to give, Sarina had choked on tears before she’d gotten more than five sentences in. She’d forced herself to try again and again until she could do it without a hitch to her voice. Then she had continued repeating it again and again even after her males had returned and implored her to sleep. She’d had to commit it to memory, had to be able perform. If she was to be damned, she had to at least succeed in keeping him alive. 

Every word, every repetition, cut deeper than any knife wound possibly could, but Sarina had been determined. She would at least give Lady Shira no reason to not keep her promise.

After...after she’d exiled her people — and every time she thought about that, the Queen was certain she died a little inside — she had found her husband in her room. Other than being relieved that he was alive and in much much less danger of dying than he had been, Sarina chose not to think too much about the rest of that day. It had been...simply too much to bear.

None of the nights since had produced a full night’s sleep for the Queen.

When the exceptionally thick response arrived from Kaedy, Danyal was once again staring at Sarina intensely as she did her best to choke down enough food to satisfy her Warlord. Ignoring the disapproval that reverberated along their Bond, the Queen shoved her food aside to open the letter...no... letters, there were two separate responses. Although she knew she would read both several times, and very carefully, Sarina skimmed through them to determine which was in response to her coded missive since it would likely be coded too.

It didn’t take much effort to determine which had the code. It was longer, and it answered the surface of the letter she had sent. Determining the message, however, took a considerable amount of effort more. Not as much as the first coded letter she’d received though. No, this time Sarina only worked with the first ten letters of the code. Once she’d gotten something that made sense on the thirteenth try, Sarina was able to decode the rest of the message in one try.

SEND LL IZAR NEED POISON SAMPLE AND TIME SPREAD SATYAAGRAHA KEEP WP Q BB ALIVE
Sarina set her pencil aside and put her head in her hands as she began hyperventilating in relief. There were no recriminations. There were no accusations. There was a warning, oh yes both levels of the warning were as clear as the Pruulian summer sky — but nothing to say she had done the wrong thing.  She’d even already done part of the task now set her in warning the long lived to go to the Izar.

Danyal set a hand on her shaking shoulders then, when that did not suffice, pulled his Queen onto his lap, much like a father would a child. “Good or bad?” He asked, after awhile, hand working through her thick black hair.

Sarina wrapped her arms around Danyal's neck and buried her face in his shoulder, feeling like a small girl, and for once not minding. Sarina felt light-headed with conflicting emotions. How could she possibly do what was being asked of her now?

"She doesn't say she hates me. How can they not hate me? Maybe they will anyway. I don't know how I'm going to get a sample of the poison to them. I wish…. I wish she had only poisoned me. I'm so sorry you were caught in this Danyal, you and Ehsan and Matin."

“No talk of that, Lady. Out of all of us, you are the one who must survive.”

I would rather die a thousand times than have any of you used against me. I would rather die every day for an eternity than risk losing any of you. The words weren't said aloud, she wouldn't hurt him that way.

With a sigh, the young Queen stood. "I should reply. She'll be worried." She moved to collect proper writing tools, before sitting back down at her desk. She started to set pen to paper, but decided to read through the letters again. As she read, Sarina leaned against Danyal, trusting that he would hold onto her. On her third pass through the letters, Sarina drifted off into a light sleep supported as she was by her Warlord.

When she woke, though it hadn’t been a very long or deep nap, Sarina felt refreshed as if a burden had been lifted from her shoulders. She smiled at Danyal with gratitude and affection and briefly caressed him with a tendril of her Touch and then hugged him tightly before sitting up straight.

“Time to write I think.”

She set both letters where she could easily refer to them along with the translation of the coded message, stretched, and got to work.

Dear Kaedy,

Thank you so much for letting me burden you with my problems, as small as they are. It is a great comfort to read your words and know that at least someone (other than my Bonded of course) understands how I feel even if my issues pale in comparison to those of others. Please pass along my gratitude to your mentor as well. The story of Zalian was equal parts reassuring and horrifying.

I do have news since I last wrote to you! I don’t think I explained why my husband was unable to be my Steward as he was for my predecessor. He had been forced to be away, and of course one has to be present to be a part of a Court. To be honest, I think his absence was why my mother-in-law’s talk of grandchildren bothered me so much since he was not there to be able to do his part. I digress. You are probably wondering what all this has to do with my news. Simply put — he is back! Of course, he is still not my Steward as there is someone else already fulfilling that role in my Court, but he is at least here where I can see him every night before I close my eyes to sleep and again when I wake each morning. I can rest easy knowing he is safe now. I pray that his personal business will not take him away from me again.

Incidentally, I have not yet had the courage to speak with my husband on the subject of children so until I do that, I am also doing my best to ignore Zhaleh’s not so subtle hints. It is, as you said, my decision and even in not unsettled times there is something of a risk is there not? I wish you all the best with the remainder of your own pregnancy and look forward to learning of a successful delivery — but I hope you won’t wait that long to write me back! These letters are a bright spot in otherwise stressful days.

Oh! I have more news too! I planted about half of the seeds you sent to me — I wanted to save some in case I needed to replant for any reason. I started them in a brand new garden just beneath my bedroom window where I hung the windchimes. That way, even when I can’t be out in the garden I can sit and listen to them. They are beautiful by the way. Anyway! My news. Already some of my seeds have sprouted and are about two inches tall. I am so excited! I think I mentioned that I am not the best at getting things to grow, so this is a big deal for me. I am anxious for them to grow and to have a small part of your land here with me. I am working on a return gift for you, but I am afraid it will take me a while yet to get all the pieces of it together.

Before I close my letter, I have a confession. I know I reasoned out an answer for the moral dilemma you posed me in the first letter you wrote to me, but I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it, especially lately. I still believe that whatever my actions and my decisions would be would always have to depend on the situation. And I fully believe that whatever I do will always be my responsibility and mine alone no matter what leads me to them.  The thing that keeps bothering me is...no matter which group is which — how will they feel about my decision? Will they resent me for keeping them safe when I didn’t keep others safe? Will they be relieved that I trusted them enough to take care of themselves so I could protect the others? Or will they all hate me no matter what? And in the end, does it matter? I have to try the hardest that I can, save those I can, lead those who look to me for guidance. In the end, I hope that as long as I’ve done the best I can, if it wasn’t what I wanted for myself won’t matter. Otherwise I’ll never be enough.

Sincerely,
Sarina al-Sabbah


With a sigh, Sarina sealed the letter and added it to the stack of other mail to be posted. She picked up the paper with the translated code and without ceremony, burned it to a fine ash which she carried to her window and let the breeze take away. Please tell me you understand.

She was going to have to find some way to help those she’d exiled or she wouldn’t be able to live with herself.

6
Pruul / Re: To Transplant the Living
« on: Sep 08, 19, 07:37:41 PM »
I am such an idiot.

Sarina too realized what building they were passing. She should have asked Danyal if their route would take them anywhere that would be painful for their companions and find a different way of it did. Too late now.

She started to reach out to lay a comforting hand on the older woman's arm, but pulled her hand away, unsure how the gesture would be received - either by Lady Naya herself or by the angry young Warlord Prince who was her son and who held no kindness for Sarina as far as she could tell.

"Lady Adel never told me that she knew the librarian." Sarina wondered yet again what had happened to her friend. The Queen hadn't seen the Priestess since the day of the attack, hadn't spoken to her since a few days before that. Her heart ached anew. Had something happened? Or had Adel too abandoned Sarina like everyone else but Danyal and now Ehsan?

"I wish she had, maybe  - " she broke off abruptly. “Did you hear that?” The young Queen shoved past Danyal and set off at a trot towards a small space between two buildings about twenty feet away too cramped to be considered an alley. She didn’t pay attention to the males surging past her to get there first; she was too focused on the barely audible sound of muffled moans and labored breathing.

At first Sarina couldn’t make out any details in the dark between the high walls. As her eyes adjusted to the dimness though, the only thing she could make out was a head of medium brown hair streaked with blond highlights - as well as dirt and a little dried blood. Her voice was soft and soothing as she called out, “Are you alright? We won’t hurt you if you come out.”

She ignored any protests her companions might make.

The child had the high sharp cheekbones and olive toned complexion common to many of Pruul’s natives and dark brown eyes that appeared almost black in the sunlight. Only the hair gave her away as someone with a parent from somewhere outside the desert; probably Chaillot, thought Sarina, or possibly Dene Nehele. Eleheh al-Sabbah, the girl said her name was, had been recently orphaned. Her mother had died when she was young, her father had been killed in the riots when the grain had gone bad. Foreign scum, she’d heard people shouting at him as her blond gentle giant of a father had protected her. She’d been surviving on the streets ever since, her home having been destroyed in the same riot.

Sarina felt sick with anger and despair. Here, where she could not get away from it, was proof of her failure to be the Queen Lady Elenor had asked her to be.

"Danyal, Lady Naya...do either of you know anyone who would be willing to take care of Eleheh? I would bring her back with us, but…" she shook her head. "We need somewhere close by where she can be cleaned up and tended to."

7
Pruul / Re: Shred My Heart and Eat it with Sauce
« on: Aug 10, 19, 11:00:29 PM »
Sarina finished speaking and stood there, the hand still on the railing the only thing that was keeping the young Queen on her feet as she stood there watching, but not seeing the people still gathered below her. She could hear them: the fear, the anger, the misery, the jealousy, the despair, the bitterness, and the hate.

She stood there, absorbing the negative emotions into her very soul until she no longer felt Shira's presence behind her and the people below had begun to disperse. I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry her thoughts were a litany of apology for those whose lives she had destroyed. I deserve every bit of your hatred, your anger and more besides. She didn't think she would ever be able to atone for what she had done. I had no choice. I had to protect him. Bile rose in her throat.

"I think I'm going to be sick" Sarina whispered the words to Danyal and Ehsan who had come up to flank her on either side. Her males helped her back down the stairs and to the closest privvy where Ehsan held her hair out of her face while the food she hadn’t been able to eat tried to come back up any way and Danyal guarded the door. It was an effort for Sarina to get back to her feet and not just curl up where she lay.

As they neared her room, Sarina felt that something was different, something was wrong, but she was still reeling from the enormity of what she had just done to analyze what she was sensing. Danyal started to say something but she pulled away from her males to run to her room, suddenly desperate to get out of the public areas of the residence.  As she came through her door, Sarina crashed full into Barin and tumbled to the ground.

She sat there, dazed - not from the crash or the fall but from the emotional flavor of the room. The layers of pain washed over her, encompassing and mixing with the misery, despair, and hate she’d pulled from the courtyard and combining into an immense pressure on her heart. She couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think. There was pain and fear on behalf of loved ones, there was agony and confusion and heartache, there was rage and fear and pain. It was all too much, she had to fix it, had to do something. She couldn’t breathe.

There might have been hands on her trying to get her to her feet or hold her back but Sarina wasn’t aware of it. She was being pulled in three different directions and couldn’t resist the need she felt all around her.

She was kneeling by the bed, unaware of getting there. She was holding hands that were the sources of some of the pain and fear and agony and heartache, and she was taking that fear and heartache and agony and pain into herself. More and more and more into herself, wanting to get it all.

She couldn’t stop.

8
Pruul / Re: Strange Bedfellows
« on: Aug 05, 19, 11:31:19 PM »
Sarina listened closely as Izil answered her barely thought out question; despite it being something blurted simply to fill the suspicious silence, the topic was one that the young Queen had an interest in.

“I see. Pity,” she murmured softly. “There are some I would have enjoyed sending to rake salt under the midday sun.” She smiled briefly. Let whomever could hear her make of that what they would. If confronted about it, Sarina could claim to have been referring to the long lived rather than Shira and the most rabid of her followers. “Would a lack in criminal labor cause a shortage of the Pruulian crushed salt that would drive up prices, or would it lead to a reduction in demand for the product?”

She continued with other innocuous questions about the running of the mines, specifics of production, costs and profits - all things that she actually already knew the answers to from reading the giant stack of reports and documents that Lady Elenor had given her back before she’d even made her Offering. These questions weren’t meant to ferret out information but merely to give her time to think of a way to tell the entrepreneur what she could without being obvious about it. She hoped that if Izil realized she already knew the answers, he wouldn’t feel she was wasting his time and become offended.

At last she sat up straighter on the edge of her seat. “I don’t mean to seem presumptuous, Prince Jofari, but have you by chance considered the request I made in my letter to you? I think someone in my Court has been trying to help me in my garden and all of my flowers were removed along with the weeds. I tried to replant them but the destruction was too viciously done and I ended up having to burn the plants to nourish the soil. In particular, I have been feeling the lack of the tiny little yellow avens that took over some of the raised beds in the courtyard on the other side of the residence. I think the only way I can regain my garden is with new seeds and I hoped you might be able to provide some from outside the Territory. I’d like to compare them to what I’ve seen growing native in the oases if I can get them to grow at all.”

Would he understand the reference to Lady Elenor in the flowers she mentioned? Would he pick up on members of the Court being remorseless when it came to dealing with that which they didn’t understand and realize she meant it as a warning to him, fire being something specific she knew the True Sabbah tended to use? Sarina didn’t know. The young Queen could only pray that she had been oblique enough to fool Lady Shira but transparent enough that Izil Jofari would take the warning for what it was. Between the hand twisting, anxiety-ridden voice and constant struggle not to pinch herself on the forearm or thigh, today Sarina was definitely not the self-possessed Queen she usually tried to be.

9
Pruul / Re: Strange Bedfellows
« on: Jul 23, 19, 07:16:04 PM »
Sarina didn't quite manage to suppress her wince at being told to seek help from the Queen of Clan Bali. To try to cover it, and to give herself time to think of an appropriate response, the young Queen took a slow sip from her own glass of water.

"I'm not certain it would be wise for me to seek out the Bali, Prince Jofari." She wondered if he heard the anxiety in her tone as clearly as she did. 'Some Queen I am.' the self recrimination was acidic in her mind.

"Trust is an issue and I would not expect them to trust the Tr - ahem - me." Did he catch that deliberate slip? She had to hint at what she wanted him to know, she wasn't naive enough to think that just because her guest and his attendants were the only ones she could see besides herself with Ehsan behind her that it didn't mean Lady Shira wouldn't know every word spoken.

Sarina looked down at her hands, peering at her guest through her eyelashes as her thoughts raced furiously: she was desperate to think of the right way to tell him that she in no way agreed with Shira al-Sabbah, that she needed help but couldn't ask for it, that she feared what she might be forced to do - all without actually telling him anything.

'Lady Sabbath I wish you were here to tell me what to do.'  the thought was as fervent as a prayer.
She had been silent too long, she had to say something.

"Can you tell me about what still requires an actual person to be done and if it could still be used to allow criminals to pay the Price to society for their crimes?"

It wasn't the best question and only loosely on topic for the conversation but it would have to do if her silence wasn't going to drag out too long.

10
Pruul / Shred My Heart and Eat it with Sauce
« on: Jul 17, 19, 11:53:14 AM »
The first fingers of blood-red dawn were just barely touching the sky behind her as Sarina climbed the stairs to the wall. The color of the sky seemed fitting for what she must do and she felt sure it was an omen - though good or bad and for whom exactly, she could not say. Her feet were leaden but the young Queen was determined not to show it. For his sake, she mustn't let her feelings show.

She rested her hands on the railing in front of her as she searched the crowd below, wondering if her people had taken the warning last night. How many had used the extra hours to pack like she'd wanted them to? Would any of them try to stay in their homes? Please let them be smarter than that. She hoped - prayed really - that they would have gone to the Izar since it would be impossible to leave the city under such short notice. Would they be turned away? Lady Elenor trusted the Warlord Prince of the new Clan, had said that Sarina could trust Lucky al-Izar to help, but….

She waited, sensing Lady Shira’s impatience at her back. She would like to get this over with, would like to see that the Black Widow had kept her word, would like to see with her own eyes the Healer tending to him. This was a performance though, and one that everyone had to see for all their sakes.

When sounds of restlessness and agitation began drifting up from the crowd, Sarina straightened, lifting her hands as if in supplication. When silence fell, the Queen set her hands back on the railing and began speaking. Her voice was clear with no indication of her inner turmoil but she needed the physical support to get through this. She had practiced throughout the night, hoping to harden her heart enough to get through this.

“My people. I have gathered you together today to share with you a vision of the future of Clan Sabbah. We have suffered many wounds these past few years, but that time of sorrow is behind us. From today onward, we will rise once more to glory, returning the name ‘Sabbah’ to greatness. We were once the strongest of all the Clans of Pruul and I believe that we will be once more, now that we have cast down the lies of the Wormcaller and embraced the True and Sacred path the desert herself chose for us.

Under the unlawful tyranny of the False Queen, we were twisted into a corrupt mockery of our once-great people. She polluted our homes, our hearts, and our minds, with fast-growing weeds. Those roots tore us apart, caused division where there should be only unity, and so today I am here to right what she wronged, and that begins by casting out the last of the weeds she allowed to grow unchecked amongst us. This is a necessity, for if even one were to remain it could spread and suffocate us all, so I implore and command you, my people, to heed my words as law.”


She ached to feel the release of tension and fear that came when she let her blood flow. She didn’t dare. Not with Lady Shira standing at her side. Not with people of uncertain tempers standing below her.

“On this day, I proclaim Clan Sabbah pure. Only those of Pruulian blood will have the honor of wearing our sacred symbols and call our fires theirs. Those whose long-lived blood corrupts no longer have any place amongst our ranks. They are henceforth banished from our Clan and Tribes, stripped of all power, all titles, all possession. Their water will not contaminate our cisterns but be spread upon the dunes in treaty to the desert to forgive our complacency and our sin in allowing their kind shelter for so long.

Each long-lived and foreign-born who has claimed to be of Clan Sabbah has one day to shed their cuffs, return their Khanjars, and leave our Quarter. Any found in defiance of this order will be sentenced to death. Any True-blooded member of Clan Sabbah found helping these impure thieves who would take the resources we need to survive and hoard them over the long years of their lives will share in their fate.”


They were going to hate her. She knew that. She had made peace, of a sort, with that knowledge. As long as they stayed safe, they could have her head on a platter some day.

“Clan Sabbah will be pure, the infection of Fin al-Sabbah and Elenor Lirion has been wiped away and we will begin to heal. It might seem to you that these actions are unjust, but like lancing a wound, it is necessary to rid ourselves of infection to heal strong. I count on each of my citizens to enforce my laws and the laws of the desert.”

She wanted to justify herself. Tell them that it was better this way. That she’d given them as much of a head start as she could. That they would be safer this way, away from her insane family. She wanted to tell them that the Sabbah didn’t deserve kind, wonderful people like them and that she didn’t want them tarnished by what the True Sabbah were making of their Clan.

She wanted to tell them all this, but she didn’t. Even though it was true, it would no one any good to say so. Maybe someday, when it was all over then she would be able to tell them, to beg their forgiveness. It wouldn’t matter if that day came or not though. The damage would already be done, was already in progress.

“Stand united, my brethren. There will be dark days ahead. The other Clans will see this action as a threat, for we are banishing our weakness and becoming strong. They will challenge us, but we will endure like the mountains we were named for. The desert will reward her most loyal and True. The Worms came to warn us of our corruption and we listened. We cast down the False Queen and they retreated from our walls. We won then, and we will continue to win each battle and conquer each challenge that comes our way, for we are the Sabbah.

May the Darkness bless you.”


She slipped a hand inside her pocket where she fingered the knife Lady Elenor had left for Danyal to find, the temptation to use it almost overwhelming. She wouldn’t though. That was the coward’s way out. She had chosen who was going into the cave and who was staying out to face the storm but she couldn’t for the life of her say which group was which.

Thanks to DragonGirl for the Shira words in Sarina's mouth


11
Pruul / Re: Bread and Gravy
« on: Jul 07, 19, 11:13:23 PM »
Sarina listened carefully, paying almost more attention to the tone than the actual words, though the words Theo was speaking resonated within her heart as well. The Queen knew she had Rasheed and Danyal, knew that both of her Bonded males loved her even as she loved them, but there were simply some things she just didn’t know how to share with them, didn’t know if they would understand and didn’t know how to make them understand if they didn’t already. That more than almost anything else made her feel alone.

The young woman didn’t say anything for several long moments, just letting the words, and the warmth of his presence, and the security of his embrace balance her senses. She breathed in time to the heartbeat under her ear, forcing herself to the rhythmic steady pace his heart drummed. Though some of her tension was easing, she didn’t pull away from the Warlord, rather she pressed into him, as his presence was what allowed her to relax, she couldn’t imagine wanting to move now. She was content to stay there as long as he would allow, though a part of her still half expected to be shooed away.

“How... how do you deal with being alone? Sometimes, even when they’re there, right there I still feel like I’m drowning in isolation. I don’t - I can’t - ” She turned her head to look at Naya who wasn’t very far away. “How do I get out? From that sense of isolation, I mean? ”

12
Pruul / Re: Bread and Gravy
« on: Jul 07, 19, 10:54:04 PM »
Sarina bit back a protest at the offer and managed to refrain from apologizing again when she’d been admonished against it, but it was only because Naya was already moving, but to actually move into the ‘seat’ vacated? She wanted to, wanted to be close to him, but wasn’t sure if she should…

She watched as Naya sashayed through the door opposite the one she’d used to come into the room before turning her attention back to Theo. “Can I…?” She didn’t know what to say, wasn’t sure how to… “Is it really alright…?” When the big man just smiled at her and nodded in encouragement, the Queen shifted, wanting to be close, but she didn’t yet have the courage to move onto his lap.

The Warlord patiently patted his leg and held his hand out to her, gesturing her over. Sarina nibbled on her bottom lip as she hesitated for another moment, but once she made up her mind to move, she fairly flew as she crawled onto his lap, she moved so suddenly. Once there, she buried her face into his chest, hoping he would hold her as he had when they met in the kitchen but not let go of her this time.

She didn’t look up as Naya came back into the room and began speaking, but slowly, very slowly, she began to relax a little as his steadiness soothed her.

“I hate being alone, but...I don’t really know how to be any other way.”

13
Pruul / Re: Bread and Gravy
« on: Jul 07, 19, 10:38:53 PM »
Sarina moved to gingerly sit at the very end of the bed, feeling an odd mixture of emotions spike rapidly through her: disappointment at the way they were grouped together and apart from her, lingering embarrassment for the interruption, a little excitement she didn’t fully understand, and an aching desire to be held. The Queen eagerly but shyly scooted closer to them at Naya's invitation, trying not to think too hard about the fact that she was sitting on a man’s bed.

She didn't speak for a moment, her eyes glued to her hands as they twisted diffidently in her lap. “I don't know that there's anything specific bothering me, Lady Naya, except for everything that everyone is dealing with, and just the...tension of everything.” She bit her lip and drew her feet up under her so she could hug her knees to her chest. “It's just that... even my kittens were out, hunting I assume, and I was so completely alone.” Her voice was soft and plaintive. “I hate being alone so much! I just…”

Even as she hugged her knees, simultaneously curling in on herself and subconsciously leaning closer to the two other people sitting on the bed with her, she was yearning for...something. “I hate being a burden and I don't think very many people like me very much.” She blinked furiously to keep tears from falling and making herself seem even more like a child in their eyes. This was hard enough, the situation discomfiting enough without the Queen making it more stressful for herself than it already was, or needed to be.

14
Pruul / Re: Bread and Gravy
« on: Jul 07, 19, 05:26:45 PM »
The way Theo's hand slid caressingly down her back had Sarina shivering; though it certainly wasn’t in fear the young Queen was too flustered to accurately decipher the feeling. ‘For Darkness's sake Sarina,’ she scolded herself, ‘get it together. You're supposed to be an adult now, can’t you act like it?!’

Naya's repeated question about her state of mind and the Hearth Witch’s offer finally penetrated Sarina's embarrassment and prompted her to speak. “I um, ah, well, I didn't want to - to be by myself tonight and Danyal and Rasheed are both so busy and I don't want to bother them and they well, they - nevermind, doesn't matter, and Lady Sabbah seemed so tired, and I don't like to bother her and it’s not that I want to bother you, but I needed, I mean I wanted, no I mean I hoped - ”

She broke off her rambling reply, shamed to realize that she was babbling like an idiot and was grateful that Theo had used her distraction to guide her into his room and close the door behind them so at least he and Naya would be the only witnesses to her idiocy. Bashful, she looked from one to the other and despite not seeing any irritation or other negative emotion on their faces, she couldn't help but say again “I'm sorry.” To be honest, she didn’t want to leave - she rather desperately hoped Lady Naya and Lord Lirion wouldn’t turn her away, or worse, try to placate her like a child.

15
Pruul / Re: Message In A Bottle
« on: Jun 29, 19, 12:11:44 AM »
"I told you days ago that I won't do it!"

The Queen's voice was strident as she faced the Black Widow, not at all like the carefully polite and neutral voice she usually used around Lady Shira. She could feel the disbelief from the others in the room as well as concern and dismay from her Bonded, but she could not bring herself to care right now. Sarina was tired. Tired of walking on eggshells with her oppressor. Tired of walking the line of trying to do what she’d promised Lady Elenor but not causing more harm instead. Tired of feeling powerless.

“There is no reason to destroy the lives of our kinsmen whose only crime is having had ancestors you don’t approve of! I won’t excommunicate Sabbah with long-lived blood and there is nothing you can do to make me change my mind!”

The silence that followed her words was deafening, Sarina’s heavy breathing the only sound as if the others were holding their breath. She glared hatefully at the older woman, wanting desperately to wipe that smug look off her face.

Shira’s voice was soft as she said “Are you sure about that Lady?”

A fissure of dread traveled down the Queen’s spine, but she didn’t back down, determined not to show it.

She was quiet as she followed the guard down the hall into an area she was unfamiliar with. She wished she dared to wrap herself in a tight shield because the atmosphere was dark, clammy, and unnerving but she didn’t want to make her uncertainty obvious to Shira who followed her.

A large key was produced to open a heavy barred door where the hall dead-ended. The hinges creaked and Sarina gagged at the fetid air that rushed from the small room.

The space was tiny, and dim. There was room for a dirty pallet and a bucket that stank and that was about it. What little light was in the room came from a few small slits high in the wall.

Sarina didn’t notice any of that, however. Her gaze immediately fixed on the occupant of the pallet, though she barely recognized the man she had married a few short, interminable weeks earlier. He was thin, too thin, and haggard. His hair was matted with sweat and there was dried blood on his face where he had bitten through his own lip. He was moaning as a gasp escaped the Queen’s lips though she tried to keep it in with a fist to her mouth. After a moment where she was frozen in shock, Sarina rushed forward to kneel at Matin’s side. She knew he wasn’t aware of her as she reached out to lay a hand on his forehead, jerking back abruptly. “He’s burning up! What happened to him? Why hasn’t the Healer tended to him?”

Shira hadn’t followed the Queen into the cell, so she now stepped forward to stand in the doorway. Her voice was matter of fact, “Was I not clear during that first meeting, Lady Sarina? Your cooperation is, of course, your choice as our Queen, but it would be such a pity if my nephew did not receive a certain medicine each morning. He’s already missed a few doses here and there, each time you have undermined me, defied me or acted like the insolent child you were. It turns out, he’s not that strong after all, even with his Caste. I’m really not sure that he’ll be able to take another bout of insolence on your part.”

Horror filled Sarina, though her hands were gentle as she ripped the sleeve of her dress to use a cloth to wipe Matin’s face. Her shoulders shook and she was unable to look at Shira as she wrestled with herself. He moaned again and Sarina slumped, defeated.“Alright. You win. I’ll sign the document - but only if you make this better, right here and right now! And only if you give them time to leave.”

Shira’s lips curled up into a smile. “What, in all our time together, has made you believe that this is a negotiation? You sign the exile order exactly as written, Sarina, then you stand on our walls and read it out loud to our people, and publicly give the order to begin arrests of any long-lived filth that still resides in our Quarter of the city within 24 hours. Refuse, and he will die. Do exactly as I say and convince me and all of your clansmen that you mean it and perhaps I will allow you to see him Healed and moved somewhere more comfortable. He is, after all, your husband.”

Tears burned Sarina’s eyes and clogged her throat, but she did not let them fall. No matter what, she would not give Shira that satisfaction, she could not. “Does Mother know what you’ve done? I don’t understand how you can do this to your own family.”

“Sarina, I can understand how you see this as punishment, as cruelty, but I promise you, this is done out of love. Matin was corrupted by a cruel joke on the part of Mother Night. He was put in a place to rid us of the False Queen right from the start but was too weak to accomplish it. We are… purging, that weakness from him. He is suffering so that he will understand the suffering he cause his family when he betrayed us and all he was born to be. One day, if he survives it, he will beg us for forgiveness, just as you will, Sarina.” Shira stepped forward and ran the back of her knuckles affectionately over Sarina’s cheek. “But I am not without a heart. If you begin to behave and make me believe that you could be a positive influence on him, I will consider letting him rejoin the Court as your husband. Under guard, of course, but redemption is always possible for those the desert and Mother Night call their own.”

Oh how Sarina longed to speak her mind. She wanted to say I notice you didn’t answer my question about Mother. She wanted to say So you think you know better than Mother Night do you? She wanted to say many things, but common sense - and Matin’s pain-twisted face - prevented her from saying anything of the sort as she did her best to completely erase those thoughts from her mind. When she finally spoke, her voice was very soft. “I know you didn’t believe me then, but when I was summoned before Lady Elenor that day, I didn’t feel I had a choice. I learned much during my time with her, most especially what not to be.” Although deep in her heart she was repeating itsnottrueitsnottrue, there was no hesitation as she said it, no sense of untruth in her voice, because really she had learned that. “I just want to be the best Queen I can be.” She bowed her head. “Please Heal him. I’m trying to learn what is best, truly.”

“I will,” Shira paused, and Sarina felt a flash of relief, before the Black Widow continued, “just as soon as this legal matter has been dealt with. How long that takes depends upon you, Lady Sabbah.”

“Please, give him the antidote now,” she let herself beg. “and we can send someone to tell the Clan to gather in the morning for the pronouncement - that way everyone will hear it. It can be done by dawn if you like.” She could not bear the thought that she would be the cause of his death, not one of hers, not after she’d promised.

Shira considered, then nodded. She produced a vial from thin air and knelt by Matin. She uncorked it and pressed it to his lips, the white-ish liquid emptying into his mouth to the last drop. “As you requested, Lady. Now, shall we leave my nephew to recover? I shall have a Healer standing by at dawn and the moment you give the order, he will be tended to.”

Sarina hesitated, wiping sweat from Matin’s face again, wishing she could do more; this wasn’t right and it was all her fault. She’d failed. After a moment, she pushed to her feet and allowed herself to be led away. What was she to do now?

“If you will please see that I have the proclamation I need to read Lady Shira? I would like to make sure I can read it clearly with no misunderstanding and I believe I need to retire early this evening if there is nothing that has need of my immediate attention.”

The young Queen held it together until she was back in her room. She waited until the door closed. She waited until the footsteps in the hall faded as Shira and the guards left.  She waited a few moments longer, straining to sense if there was anyone left outside her room to witness what she wanted kept private, and then she crumpled.

She curled into a ball as tears flooded her face, her nails digging into flesh everywhere: her arms, her stomach, the backs of her thighs. Physical pain exploded in her but it could not drown the mental and emotional pain of what she had done, had agreed to do. “They’ll hate me,” she whispered out loud, “Every one of them. I’ve failed. Oh Darkness, I failed!”

For a time, Sarina stayed curled up, impervious to any attempt made by Ehsan and Danyal to comfort her, suppressing her sobs and opening new wounds, but it wasn’t that long before she was able to force herself to stop.

“I have to have faith, I have to trust. I have to tell them.” As she spoke, she uncurled her body and shakily got to her feet, wobbling dangerously as she made her way to her desk. She pulled out a worn scrap of paper and a pen and closed her eyes in thought for a long moment before she opened them and slowly, haltingly, began to write.

HH ATEHAZ SL M XX NAZ LKEOKJAZ EI OK OKNNU SL YKQHZ DWRA ZEAZ YWJP WHHKS EI OK OKNNU

She set that to the side where she could see it clearly and pulled out a fresh sheet of heavy paper from her stationary set.

Dear Kaedy,

She paused, studying her code; she was going to have a very difficult time sounding normal with this. She crossed out a few letters, added a couple, and rearranged a bit so that it now read:

HH ATEHAZ SL M XX NAZ LKEOKJAZ YWJP WHHKS SL PK ZEA EI OK OKNNU

She nodded to herself, that was a little more concise and would hopefully be easier to make natural.

Dear Kaedy,

Under normal circumstances, I would not write again so soon, but there has been something bothering me that I neglected to include in my last letter. News hadn’t reached you yet, of Lady Elenor’s fate, when you sent the first letter, the one meant for her I mean. Naturally since I’m the one who informed you, this is obvious! Killing and death were on your mind a lot you had said. Our revolution had only just recently occured so they were much on my mind as well. Killing, especially, is hard for me to deal with and understand. One of the reasons I asked if you would write to me, I think, is that from what I could glean from that first letter, you and I seem to be similar in many ways, at least in the way we think.

I’m sorry if I seem maudlin all of a sudden. Ehsan, my First Escort, has been doing his best to cheer me up but it hasn’t been working well. All I can do, I feel like lately, is wonder what I am doing and why Mother Night made me a Queen. Eventually I assume I will get over whatever is causing these thoughts I hope.

Zhaleh, my husband’s mother, has not exactly been subtle in her desire for grandchildren, so perhaps that is my problem. Kittens have been my only real experience with babies and I don’t think they count! Puppies would be even worse, I fear - I am not fond of puppies. Let’s be honest, I’m barely confident in my ability to lead my people. So the idea of becoming a mother is downright terrifying!

Since I just replied to your most recent letter a few days ago, I know you have probably not yet received it as I write this so I don’t expect you to have replied yet. Kind of hope you haven’t actually so you can reply to this one at the same time and we can go back to a proper scheduling of replies. Honestly I probably could have waited until I heard back from you, but patience isn’t my strongest suit. How my Bonded cope with me, I do not know. Whatever they do to manage it, though, I am grateful for.

Perhaps you can talk some sense into me. Just because I think I’m too young to have children doesn’t mean it’s true, does it? What are your thoughts on the matter? Your culture values children as much as ours, I’m sure, so hopefully it is something you have thought about. Zero people here would tell me what they truly thought so I am counting on you my friend. Alright, not zero since I don’t think my Bonded would lie to me. Just not anyone who could understand why I am hesitant to have children. Kids are a lot of work after all. Of course, that is part of why a Queen has a Court, isn’t it, to help her manage everything? Even though I’m sure women besides Queens struggle with integrating children into the rest of their lives. Knowing and knowing are two different things as I have heard people say. Logically I know I am making a storm out of a breath of air, but well...logic is also something I struggle with.

Zig-zag, my thoughts are all over the place, aren’t they? Almost as if I were drunk. No, I promise you I am not intoxicated - just trying to get my thoughts out on paper so that hopefully I will be able to concentrate better. Xirian, your mentor, is an experienced Queen, isn’t she, so maybe she would have a recommendation for me. Xirian seems like the kind of Queen who would be able to tell a person exactly how to better focus their thoughts - at least that is the sense I get from what you have written about her. Might you be willing to ask and include her answer in your next letter?

Let me apologize again for sending two letters in a row like this. Sometimes I just have to get my thoughts out and though I suppose I could keep a journal or something, I would much rather share them with you.

Zhaleh can want grandchildren all she wants but if I’m not ready for children she can just wait. Am I right? Hopefully she never learns I wrote that. Even the most easy going person might take offense at an attitude like that.

This is where I will close. As you know, my days are busy and I need all the sleep I can get. Hopefully your days aren’t as chaotic as mine. How I wish you were closer!

Fondly,
Sarina


The Queen read through the letter several times, comparing it line by line to her written code, before she sealed it in an envelope and handed it to Danyal.

***Can you get someone to get this to Askavi as soon as possible without Shira finding out about it?***

As he took it and vanished it, Sarina thought a little prayer. Please Darkness, let them understand.


Shira written with Dragongirl

16
Pruul / Re: Message In A Bottle
« on: Jun 28, 19, 11:47:13 PM »
The arrival of the latest letter from Kaedy was a welcome distraction. Sarina was feeling hammered. The young Queen sometimes wondered if perhaps she would find more peace in the middle of a sandstorm than she did in her own Court. She’d had to replant a section of her garden today. It wasn’t the first time either.

Sarina was young, but she wasn’t stupid. Just two days ago, Sarina had seen the way Lady Shira’s mouth had tightened into a thin, disapproving line when she’d offered to provide a job to a supplicant.. The first time she’d found damage in her garden had been two days after she had met with Izil Jofari about the mines. Another section of her plants had been obliterated days after Sarina had found young Eleheh new guardians, people she was...hopeful...would be good and kind parents to the poor girl. That damage had hurt the worst since her eggplant had just started forming tiny little fruits that had been mashed to a pulp. And there had been other times.

There was a pattern happening here. Every time Sarina did something Lady Shira did not approve of, the Queen’s garden suffered in some small or not so small way. She’d heard once, that the definition of insanity was doing something over and over again and expecting a different result. If that meant that Sarina was insane for doing the right thing, so be it, she wasn’t going to give up. Besides - it also meant Lady Shira was insane since she seemed to think this would deter Sarina. It hadn’t, and it wouldn’t, but it kept happening anyway. “Maybe someday I’ll have the courage to call her insane myself.” she muttered out loud.

Once back in her room, Sarina flopped down on her bed to finally read the letter, setting the small box aside to examine afterwards. As she finished reading, she let out a sigh, absently picking at a scab on the back of her wrist, her eyes closing in contentment as a little bit of blood welled up. She was going to have to be very careful responding to this letter. Despite everything, she was not a person who could live without trust. She just could not. She had to trust that whoever Kaedian Meadowlark truly was, it was someone who had the her - and the Sabbah’s - best interests at heart.

The letter was full of questions that - coming from someone who didn’t know her or her situation and who wanted to know about her to be a friend - were perfectly innocent. Her problem was that to answer them honestly would paint a bigger than already existed target on her head and would destroy whatever ability she had to protect her people. She couldn’t allow that, but if Kaedian was who she trusted them to be then there were things they needed to know.

With the air of someone who was going into battle, Sarina moved to her desk to begin her reply. It was going to take some thought penning this so she felt she had better start as soon as she could. This letter might take several days to complete and she wasn’t sure how many days she was going to have to pass information.

Dear Kaedy,

Thank you so much for sending the seeds! The windchimes are also lovely and I can’t wait to sit and listen to them some evening. I wish I could return the favor, but it is too late to collect seeds from native wild plants in the oasis even if I could get to them right now. Next year, I hope. In the meantime, I will do my best to grow those seeds from you.

You asked about my opinion on differences in biology. I have never understood how anything other than what we choose for ourselves - our actions, our thoughts, our behavior - can determine who and what we are. But then I have never had children nor have I ever studied how or what children get from their parents and grandparents and I don’t remember much of what my parents were like.

Forgive me for being so direct when we barely know each other, but you said that you were born without wings. How...how do you cope with it? Obviously I don’t have as conspicuous a difference from my people as you, but I often feel like an outsider here. Maybe it’s because I married into my people rather than being a part of them from birth.

You are right that my Court is newly formed. It was formed in the wake of the revolution and is mostly political in nature.  I am blessed with two Bonded males - Danyal al-Hague whom you remember is my Master of the Guard, a post which he has many years of experience in, and Ehsan al-Tair is my First Escort as well as my newest Bonded, and they both prefer to keep me in sight as well. Maybe that’s a result of the Bond? There were so very many deaths during the revolution - I don’t even know all of the names now, even this many weeks later. Some, like my first Bonded, I know would have served me and there are days when I have to force myself not to think about them or it is too much to bear and I’m not even able to get out of bed.

I don’t actually know what happened to most of my predecessor’s Court, but I do know that her First Escort was killed protecting her.  Also,  I married the previous Steward. Unfortunately my husband’s personal circumstances prevent him from being my Steward as well although I would have welcomed him in that role. The Steward I have instead is very skilled, though, and is the Darkest Jeweled male I have ever met. I do feel extremely protected within my Triangle.  The rest of them...I just don’t know. Their bodies were not found to my knowledge but that’s all I know.

Do you have a plan for forming your Court? Seven months doesn’t seem like much time, especially for a member of a long lived race. Are you ready for it? I realize you probably can’t tell me any specifics for the sake of security, but do you have any idea where you will end up when your apprenticeship is over? Do you know what to expect at that time? Will you go straight into ruling, or will you have the chance to travel first?

I wish there was a way I could meet you. I feel like you would understand what I have had to deal with. I wasn’t ready for this. I find myself not able to say the right things or do what needs to be done. And on top of everything else, there is some kind of pest attacking my garden! I can’t tell if it is some kind of marauding insect, an animal, or someone looking for food who doesn’t know what they’re doing. Okay so that last one is not likely, but who knows?

Do you have any irksome mysteries you can share? Or maybe you could tell me what kinds of things you enjoy? I’d love to send you a return gift as thoughtful as the wind chimes and seeds.

Oh and don’t worry about the nightmares, I was just teasing! There is plenty that gives me bad dreams anyway so a few more won’t hurt anything.

Fondly,
Sarina


With a sigh, Sarina set her pen down. She folded the letter into an envelope and addressed it.  “I hope you understand what I need you to know, whoever you are.”

17
Pruul / To Transplant the Living
« on: Jun 23, 19, 02:10:41 PM »
It was exhilarating to be out in the reqlative open of the city, not cooped up inside the walls of the residence. It had been weeks since Sarina had seen a space larger than her courtyard garden from anywhere nearer than her bedroom window. The Queen didn't even want to think about the months it had been since she had seen open desert, let alone walked among the dunes.

Her freedom was entirely illusionary, but the young Queen was willing to pretend for a short while.

It was also heartbreaking to be on the streets of the city. There were still so many signs of devastation - ash and rubble and just misery. She sighed viewing the damage that weeks had yet to erase. Her people had a lot to answer for.

 Sarina had in her pocket a small bag of seeds she had acquired that she had soaked in a small bowl of her blood overnight once the plans for this trip had been made. Every time she found a patch of dirt somewhat protected by the side of a building, Sarina would make an excuse to pause so she could dig a small hole with the heel of her foot so she could drop a few seeds and cover them back up. She was pretty sure she’d managed to plant at least three dozen avens seeds. If any of her companions had noticed, they weren’t saying anything - yet.

“Lady Naya, thank you again for agreeing to come with me. I needed to return this book to the library and I know I could have sent someone to take it back, but I just really needed a change of scenery.”

18
Pruul / Re: Message In A Bottle
« on: Jun 19, 19, 09:45:36 PM »
When the letter arrived, Sarina felt a shiver of excitement as well as a thrill of anxiety. Either this was a means of communication with people she had thought lost to her, or a chance for her to make a connection with another Territory and either would be wonderful really. If the first letter had been a trick or trap, she didn’t think anyone would have bothered to continue the deception by sending a reply. Of course, they could be hoping to trick her into saying something incriminating but she had to have some hope, some trust or she would fall apart so she was choosing to hope for the best in this situation. Either best.

As she read the letter, her first inclination was to cheer - whatever else was going on here, someone was going to write to her which would at the very minimum serve as a distraction for her and give her something to anticipate. The ethical question though...even just the thought of it filled her with trepidation.

It had been not quite a week since the young Queen received the second letter from Askavi. She had begun an answer straight away, eager as she was to keep the communications open regardless of who was on the other end. She had not been able to finish it as quickly as she began it though.  The puzzle she’d been given troubled her. Like the author of the letter, Sarina didn’t think there was truly a correct answer. It nagged at her though, and kept her up at night to the frustration and concern of Danyal and Ehsan - either she was unable to fall asleep in the first place for thinking about it, or possible outcomes tormented her dreams. She’d also sent considerable time checking for another hidden message and had been both relieved and disappointed to not find one.

At last she felt ready to commit her thoughts to paper.

Dear Lady Kaedian Meadowlark,

I am thrilled to hear back from you. I have to apologize for not properly introducing myself in my previous letter but I wanted to get my unfortunate news to you, and whoever you might pass it on too, as quickly as I could.

So. As you know, I am Sarina al-Sabbah. I...more or less inherited my position by default. Lady Elenor was my mentor, but my family are the ones who brought me to her attention. I do wish I had more time training before I came to my position. Our Clan has not had very many Queens in recent history (something maybe we share with Askavi?) so I suppose it was inevitable that I would end up where I have. By the way, please do call me Sarina and I would love to call you Kaedy.

What is a  day like in Pruul? To be honest, I am not sure there such a thing as a typical or routine day. In normal times, most of our people would be traveling for most of the year. These have not been normal times and with the unrest of both the Sandworms and our people, I and my Court have been kept in Onn - that’s one of our few cities here in Pruul. There are meetings, or should I say endless meetings? That is certainly the way it feels some days. I miss traveling and seeing a new landscape every morning when I wake. I do have a small garden that I tend, but like you that aspect of Queen’s Craft is not my strongest skill. Traditionally we don’t have a lot of agriculture here as we have historically had great success with trade and have not been blessed with the natural components necessary to grow vast quantities of food. I am trying to expand the gardens here though because I find the process of Gifting to be fascinating. I’m not very good at it, but I wish that it is something I could do with people. Maybe that’s what Healing is? Perhaps someday I should study to be a Healer.

That reminds me; would you send me some seeds of your favorite plants? I’d love to study them...if I can even get them to grow. I’ve gotten sprouts from a little less than half the seeds you sent to Lady Elenor. I hope you don’t mind that I planted them. I told you I wasn’t very good with growing things. I can’t wait to see what they grow into though as they don’t look like anything I know. Does Askavi have anything like avens? I am familiar with the yellow ones with small five-petaled flowers, but I do not know if they produce other colors. I was told Healers use great quantities of them for a variety of purposes. I’m growing some that I have aquired, but I’m sure our Healers would use anything similar to them and my poor efforts need all the supplemental help available.

I don’t have a true answer to your ethical dilemma though I have given it great thought. I think perhaps my Bonded think I have given too much thought to it as it has occupied even my dreams in the days since I received your letter.

The best answer I can give is that I think it is always going to depend on the specifics of the situation. At least for me. As a Queen, I have a responsibility to my people and I feel like in any situation like the one you described I would have to consider both the immediate need and the long term. What is the make up of the group of people I am having to choose from?  How many are children, how many are elderly? How many men, how many women? What are their castes? My instinct is to save as many children as possible first especially since they would be our future for the longest time, but they would need enough adults to take care of them. Of course, depending on the ages of the children would that change how many resources they would need? That is a question that has haunted me. Then there is the question of Castes. The group would need at least one adult Healer if one was available and we are taught that Queens must be protected. I, however, would say that I would probably ultimately be as safe outside with a group of Warlord Princes as I would be inside. And those inside would not need that kind of protection if the cave was as well supplied as your mentor has set the scenario. Then too, we have the question of Jewels. Would not, like potentially with the children, those of Light or no Jewels need less resources than someone like me with a dark Jewel and so I could save more of them? But then, without darker Jewels among the survivors, would they survive dangers that might await them after the period of confinement?

How I would react if I were not the Queen, or at least not the person in charge of making the decision...I can’t even begin to know what I might do. I feel like I might always choose to save others, but I don’t know how much of that is my nature and instincts as a Queen. I’m sure you understand the dilemma. But I think it is perfectly reasonable for individuals to want to survive and I don’t know how I could fault them for it.

Like you, I sincerely hope to never to have to make such a decision, but I do know that if I did, I would probably suffer no matter what decision I made. Part of me wants to say it would be easier to make sure I didn’t survive so as to not have to live with the consequences of my decision but I know that not only would it be horrifically wrong but that I could never do that. My Bonded Danyal would be horrified to know I’d even considered it. To be honest, I think it for the best to suffer for the decision because I would know I would always do the best I could. Thanks for giving me nightmares!

What is it like, to be able to fly? The Sandworms are as poisonous as you’ve heard and they are a large part of why I have felt confined lately.

I hope to someday meet you face to face.

Sincerely,
Sarina al-Sabbah



As she finished writing the letter, Sarina felt a pang of regret. As much as she hoped she was actually communicating with Lady Elenor or at least one of her people, a part of Sarina wished Kaedian Meadowlark were a real person. It would be nice to have someone who could truly be a friend.

She set it aside mentally and emotionally as she sealed the letter inside an envelope.

19
Pruul / Re: Message In A Bottle
« on: Jun 14, 19, 08:01:51 PM »
The young Queen turned tired, reddened and dull eyes to Danyal as he came back to her. It hadn't been easy writing this letter to whomever had sent her the code, short as it was. Oddly though, the coded message had actually been the easiest part. Maybe that was just because it was so short though. No, the hard part was keeping to the fine line between truthful and informative but also naive and unsuspicious. And her pride wouldn’t let it be anything but polite. It was a difficult balance to achieve.

When the aural shield went up, her expression turned hopeful - did he have news?

“You’re sure it was safe to leave the message?” she asked as she took the items he handed to her, studying them curiously. Two wrapped packages, a heavy metal box, and a small memory crystal. She looked up at Danyal, questions written all over her face. When he indicated the memory crystal, Sarina set aside the other items for now.

She layered her own aural shield over that of her Warlord. “Do I need a sight shield too?”

When he shook his head, Sarina tried to activate it. Nothing happened so Danyal did it for her. As the familiar voice played, tears began to stream down her face. Would she ever see Lady Elenor again or was she truly dead? Soon the voice went quiet and the young Queen realized she hadn’t actually heard a word of what the message said. She waited for it to start again and this time she forced the tears back so she could listen closely. Her eyes flicked to the metal box beside her - so that was one thing explained.

The message ended again and Sarina gestured for Danyal to turn it off.  She picked up the two wrapped packages, one in each hand, and then hesitated. Some instinct told her that these would not be something to bring a smile to her face. For a long time, she just stared, feeling the weight of the packages in her hands as a weight on her heart. At last she set one down and with trembling hands slowly unwrapped the one she still held.

It was a knife. And a note that read “If it’s too late.” She gulped. To late for what? Who was the knife meant for? Her? Probably. But when was too late? How would she know? The thought of having to use it was horrifying, but she vanished it anyway; if she ever needed it, then she had it.

The wrapping covering the second small package came off even more slowly than had that on the knife.

“A necklace?” Sarina looked at Danyal, puzzled before looking back at the item she held. It was lovely. A silver necklace with a place to set a Jewel. If it was for her, as she assumed it was, it seemed perfect for her Red. And it was elaborate enough that she thought Shira would approve of her wearing it. But why…?

As she lifted the piece of jewelry to look at it more closely another piece of paper fluttered to the floor. Danyal retrieved it and Sarina read "If you are at the end of the road." She almost crumpled the paper in disgust. More words that made no sense!

She set aside the note and lifted the necklace to examine it more closely as light glinted off something on the back of it. There was a tiny flower etched in gold. Sarina’s eyes narrowed as she traced the pattern of the flower. Suddenly she put it down and slipped off one of her silver Sabbah cuffs. The Queen turned it so she could see the engraving hidden there even though all she had to do was close her eyes to see it, having engraved it in her memories long ago. She held the two pieces of jewelry next to each other - yes, the new flower wasn’t as big and it didn’t have the words, but it was the same shape.

Her breath hitched, this had been planned. She thought Lady Elenor was going to try to get her former Ward out when her Court fell but this seemed like the older Queen had meant for Sarina to be left behind. Icy bands seemed to grip her heart. “Why?” she whispered out loud. “Did you mean you mean to abandon me here all along?” Her fingers tightened on the necklace. The young woman was about to set it aside; she wasn’t going to accept a new bauble as if it could make up for being deserted - but then she began to see faces. Each one felt like a blow on her heart. Danyal. Rasheed. Salma. Yari. Theo. Lady Elenor. Adel. Matin. Naya. Shadya. Judiah. With each new face, her grip tightened until suddenly there was a small explosion of pain in her hand. She looked down and realized that one of the prongs meant to hold the Jewel in place had punctured the skin between her thumb and forefinger.

The jewelry fell from her grasp as she lifted her hand to her face. There wasn’t a lot of blood, but it was so red and so bright and so very pretty. So much more vibrant than even the Red that currently hung on a simple chain around her neck. Trance-like, she inhaled the sweet scent of the blood. Her eyes closed and her tongue flicked out to lap up the blood.

A stillness came over the Queen; all the stress just seemed to slip away as Sarina’s other hand came up to her face and dug four deep furrows and as the blood flowed she smiled in contentment.

“It feels so good Danyal.”

20
Pruul / Re: Strange Bedfellows
« on: Jun 10, 19, 11:35:29 PM »
Sarina took her time responding to her guest. Where exactly to begin? Lady Shira probably did intend more hostile tactics though Sarina hoped to prevent that if possible. Somehow she would have to find a way to warn Prince Izil Jofari of that likelihood as well her personal stance. Congratulations? She did not feel that those were in order, though she would not say so as she did not wish to be rude. And a smooth transition? She thought of the death of her first Bonded, of her forced wedding, of being poisoned and of feeling abandoned by every single person not tied to her by Mother Night that she thought she could depend on - Lady Elenor, Lady Shadya, Adel, Lady Judiah, even poor Rasheed who had been so tied to her - and wanted to laugh hysterically. She didn’t, but it took great effort not to.

To give herself more time to think, the young Queen busied herself putting together a plate of fruit and cheese to offer to her guest. “Lady Sa- El - my predecessor taught me about the process and how she...discovered it. I find it fascinating.” What could she say? She wanted to just blurt out her concerns but as young as she knew herself to be, she wasn’t stupid enough to commit suicide that way.

Once Izil had either taken the plate or she set it down on the table next to him, Sarina stared at her lap, twisting her hands together. “Prince Jofari, if - if it were possible to convert the mines back - back to the way they were...what would the cost be?” She looked up at him, silently imploring him not to interrupt or take this the wrong way. “I need to - need to know how to keep that from happening because it would be wrong, and foolish and...and...and just stupid!” She took a deep breath and let it out slowly, calming herself. “I’m sorry, I didn’t say that well. I need an argument to help preserve our...resources. I’m trying to determine how to protect my people, from...everything.”

How could the Queen tell him what she needed to without giving herself away?

21
Pruul / Re: Strange Bedfellows
« on: Jun 04, 19, 04:29:39 PM »
Sarina was...anxious. When she’d written to Prince Izil Jofari, the young Queen had not had a true plan; merely the knowledge that Lady Elenor trusted the businessman, that he might be able to provide her with aid someday, and that it was unlikely he would ever side with Lady Shira. She had written the letter as one might shoot an arrow in the dark - no idea of where it was going or what might be there but hoping against hope that it would hit something.

So when she received the reply to arrange a meeting, she had been relieved - she would at least get the chance to do...something. She just hadn't been sure what that was. She still wasn't sure what that was yet. The only thing she knew for sure was that somehow she needed to make sure the True Sabbah didn’t do anything to compromise Lady Elenor’s plans for the mines. Maybe it wasn’t how things had been done in Pruul for untold number of centuries, but to Sarina’s mind that wasn’t a bad thing.

Lady Shira thought that the attack of the Sandworms on Touno and on Onn was proof that Pruul was straying from the one true way and that the only way to survive was to eradicate the long-lived from the sands of Pruul. Sarina was certain she was wrong.  For one thing, from reading the Queen had done suggested that those of long-lived descent were less likely to be innovators of change because their lifespans were so long. Sarina wasn’t sure she understood the psychology of it, but the author had seemed to know what he was talking about. Something to do with knowing you only had so many years to accomplish the best that you could spurring most individuals to intense improvement whereas the more years you knew you had, the more lazy you became. Or something like that. Which, to Sarina, translated to long-lived in general being supporters of traditions, which you would think Lady Shira would approve of.

For another thing, though, being trapped in Onn by the Worms and being unable to trade with other Territories as was ‘normal’ and ‘traditional’ had shown Sarina that the ‘normal’ and ‘traditional’ wasn’t always going to be good enough. Lady Shira had blamed the attack on the Rains brought by the Mineborn, who happened to be long-lived, and while it was likely it had to do with the Rains themselves, it probably would not have mattered if the Rains had been called by long-lived, short-lived or walking snakes. The histories also said that there had been Rains before that weren’t called by a group of people, although that had not happened in far longer than most living memory. That made Sarina want to question what was it about the last however many centuries that had prevented natural Rain, and if it was it something that the people of Pruul had caused in some fashion because if it was, then that brought up a whole different sandstorm of questions that she did not even begin to have answers for.

But the point was that the people would have starved during the seige after the attack if they had been relying on the 'normal' and 'traditional' because they couldn't get past the sandworms to get more food - at least not easily. Water was... questionable. There had been enough dead bodies that the Aubdina would have been able to provide water for a significant amount of time - if there were enough of the Priestesses in Onn at the time to tend to all the bodies before they started spoiling and if the water from bodies that had died of sandworm poison wasn't tainted itself. Sarina didn't know the answers to those questions either.

And the changes Lady Elenor had made in the mines and in the city had kept it from being a bigger problem than it already was.

And even in her own head, Sarina was letting her anxiety distract her from the matter at hand. She had dressed simply, but carefully, hoping to give Prince Jofari the impression of someone who cares most about getting things done while simultaneously fostering Lady Shira's impression of her naivety. It was a fine distinction.

Now she was waiting, and it was taking all her willpower to not fidget like a small child. When the guard brought word that Prince Jofari had arrived, Sarina felt some of the tenseness flow out of her - he was here.

"Please bring him to my courtyard and have refreshments sent out. Be sure there is enough for anyone Prince Jofari has brought with him." She had debated endlessly with herself on where the meeting should take place. The throne room might have been the most appropriate location for a business meeting since she didn't have her own office, but the young Queen had several reasons to avoid it. One was that it put them on more equal footing. Another was that the throne Shira had aquired to replace the previous one made Sarina feel like a little girl playing dress up in her mother's room. Mostly, though, was that Sarina could justify irritating Lady Shira.

As she walked the short distance to her courtyard, Sarina felt a pang that she couldn't greet her guest under the olive tree in Lady Elenor's courtyard. Every time she saw that sad space, the young Queen felt her heart breaking anew.

As Izil Jofari and his guards entered the courtyard, Sarina was standing with a smile on her face - a pleasant, open innocent smile.

"Welcome. I've looked forward to meeting you. Please, take seats and have water with me."

In the back of her mind, she wondered how long it would be before Lady Shira or Prince Bastin showed up to berate her or take over the meeting.

22
Pruul / Re: Message In A Bottle
« on: Jun 02, 19, 05:13:39 PM »
Sarina absently thanked the Warlord who brought her the mail deemed ‘worthy’ of her attention. She expected to find requests for aid, bills for damages, congratulations on her marriage, solicitations for business meetings and the like.

As she flipped through the stack, the first few were just as she expected. Then one caught her eye. It wasn’t that it was already opened, since all her mail was opened before she saw it. It wasn’t that the envelope was addressed to ‘Lady Sabbah’ since regardless of what she thought of herself, that was what most people in Pruul saw her as now. No, it - unlike anything else she had ever received - had been crumpled. Curious, she pulled the sheet out and read the salutation out loud.

“Dear Lady Elenor al-Sabbah”

Now she understood the state of the paper. It was addressed to a dead woman disliked by her...well, even in her thoughts the young Queen felt it was best to remain polite, so she would go with 'auntie.' Next question was why would her...auntie...send the letter on to her instead of destroying it, especially since ‘disliked’ was a mild way to describe how Shira al-Sabbah felt about Lady Elenor.

She read through the letter, sighing as she reached the signature. Poor Lady Meadowlark, she wouldn’t ever be able to continue her correspondence with Lady Sabbah if Lady Shira was correct that she was dead. The young Queen wouldn’t mind taking up the correspondence herself, although she didn’t relish the thought of informing the Eyrien Queen of Lady Elenor’s fate, but she wondered if that wasn’t why she’d been given the letter. Either to have her make a relationship with this other Queen, or have her tell what had happened here. Or both.

She was about to set the letter down when something about it caused her to read through it again.

given that working the land has never been my strong suit...Queen Craft isn’t the only lesson I’ve been focusing on...War always seems to end in loss...Queens, I think, are always doomed to feel lonely...Under normal circumstances, I’d never push my ideology on someone else of course... I still found that story about the three Queen sisters to be a charming rendition of why we have Triangles...Golden hair or black, we are cut from the same cloth...have you ever wondered what would happen if in that fable of the three sisters they had chosen the other path and decided to fight?

She frowned.

In some ways, this Kaedian Medowlark sounded like she herself...and she seemed to be saying something that resonated with the situation that Sarina found herself in - which shouldn’t be possible.

She started to set the letter down again, she needed to respond to these other letters first and think about what, if anything, she should do about the letter to Lady Elenor. She’d just let go, when she frowned and grabbed it to read it again. She pursed her lips in confused frustration. the three Queen sisters. Ask for help...

“Danyal, could you look at this? It seems...off to me. What do you make of it?”

The Warlord stood from the window seat from where he was watching the courtyard below and walked to Sarina's desk. He took the letter from her, frowning as he read it over first once, then twice. "It's rambling nonsense, Lady... but as far as I know, Lady Elenor never met with or corresponded with anyone by this name. I was in Askavi with her the whole of her time there. It was a very brief visit, hardly four days, and most of it was spent in meetings with the Territory Court."

Sarina’s frown deepened and she began pacing. “I would almost say she’s me Danyal. She sounds just like me.” She was silent for several moments before growling in aggravation. “This doesn’t make any sense. What is going on?” She moved to stand with her Warlord and leaned in to point at a line on the sheet. “Golden hair or black, we are cut from the same cloth” she read out loud. “Doesn’t it seem like this person is poking fun at Lady Shira’s xenophobia?”

Danyal set the letter down on the small table where Sarina usually sat to write and turned to face his Queen, his face grim. "We know at least some of the former Court got out, this could be one of them trying to tell you something, or one of Elenor's family members trying to find out if she is still alive. I know she has a grandfather there, as well as an aunt. But Sarina, it could also be a trick, some test of loyalty from the Spider. You must be careful."

Sarina clenched her hands into fists, her whole body telegraphing vexation. “I know, I know.” She sighed. “You know I always try to be careful in regards to Lady Shira.” She chose to ignore the expression of disbelief on her Bonded’s face. “Besides,” she said, her voice tinged with bitterness, “Why bother to test my loyalty when she’s already poisoned me?”

She moved to her table to pick up the letter and read it again. “Danyal...would the library in the city have any books by Dhemlenese codebreakers? Can you check? If not, I met a bookseller during the festival not long after I first arrived that we could try.”

Danyal agreed to try and find out since he didn’t have an answer, and to give him cover, Sarina asked him to also bring back a novel for her to read. Maybe a mystery that could also explain the book on code breaking if anyone found it unduly suspicious.

That had been hours ago and the young Queen had had an extremely difficult time concentrating on her duties, such as they were, while she waited. She’d been able to carve out some time in her garden. It wasn’t as extensive or as well grown as the garden she had tended under the guidance of Lady Elenor, but it was hers and even Lady Shira couldn’t argue with the need for herbs for the Healers, though Sarina often felt her herbs weren’t getting to the Healers who needed them the most. Still, time in the garden soothed Sarina despite not being able to reliably sense the Land and the things growing in it. She did actually know what she needed to do - well she didn’t know know, but she had a strong suspicion - but she was too keyed up today to even try relaxing her control of her emotions.

It was now the end of the day and she was back in her room with her Bonded and Danyal had managed to come up with a book about codes and code breaking written by a Dhemlanese Priestess as well as the mystery novel - which was all about a Hearth Witch who was also a spy. Sarina absently thought she might actually read it some day as it looked fascinating. It also reminded her to go see Lady Naya when she had the chance. She missed being able to speak with the older witch and she was one of the few people that Sarina could just talk to that Sarina still had access to. As much as the Queen loved both Ehsan and Danyal, sometimes she just needed to talk to another woman. Maybe she just needed to make that chance.

Ehsan had read the letter but had not had any immediate insight - not surprising since he hadn’t been connected directly with anyone in Lady Elenor’s Court. He had promised he would think on it.

It was now early morning and Sarina was still pouring through the book, trying to make sense of the various types of codes. She had no way of knowing if the book was the one referenced in the letter, or even if the letter referred to an actual book, but there could be no harm in learning more about codes. It wasn’t that Sarina was ignoring Danyal’s warning that this could be a test of loyalty, but she reasoned that even if it were a test she needed to know what the meaning of the message was to even begin to figure out how to respond to it.

The sun was rising when Sarina threw the book down on her bed in disgust. “There are too many types of codes!” She fisted her hands in her hair in angry irritation and when that didn’t help, she dragged the nails of her right hand down the inside of her left arm, raising a long livid welt that was almost broken skin. “How do I even know where to begin!” she practically wailed the question, lack of sleep combining with the disheartening lack of comprehension to cause Sarina’s composure to crack.

Danyal had been mostly asleep on the couch he routinely pushed in front of the door most nights but his head shot up at her quiet wail. He stretched, rolled the sleep from his eyes, and walked over to where Sarina sat. After a few minutes studying the letter he said, "This mentions a code in pictures and mosaics. Obviously this isn't a picture but it might reference something in the book. I would start there. Though, if you truly want my opinion, Lady Sarina, you should sleep."

Sarina leaned forward to rest her head in her hands and her elbows on her bed, “I know I should. I just can’t get this letter out of my mind. It’s just…” She dug her nails into her upper arm.

Danyal gently reached down and pulled that hand away. "If your heart is telling you to solve it, then it must be done. I'll go tell the Spider that you've had nightmares all night from your time as Elenor's 'hostage' and that you need to rest today. You just concentrate on this project and promise me that after you crack it, you will sleep."

With that he kissed her on the brow and left the room.

Sarina had a headache. She’d had a headache for hours. Unbelievably, she’d actually found the mosaic code referenced in the letter in the book Danyal had brought her, and since it clearly couldn’t be that particular code, the Queen had spent every moment studying every code in that chapter. She just couldn’t let go of the belief that the letter meant something other than the words that were written. It was too oddly specific otherwise.

She gave a growl and wadded up another worn piece of paper to her growing pile. Soon she would need to burn them. “Not that anyone could make sense of something that makes no damn sense!” she muttered as she yanked on her earlobe. “It has to be this if it’s anything.” She got up and started pacing. “It can’t be the mosaic, there’s no picture. There’s no grid so it’s not that. And how in the Darkness am I supposed to know if I have the right book? Even if there were any numbers here, which there aren't. It has to be offset.” And yet, it wasn’t. None of her efforts had yielded anything - none, and she had tried Every. Single. Possibility. with the letter she had in front of her. 

Danyal, who had spent much of the last few hours helping her run through all the possibilities for an offset code rubbed the bridge of his nose. "This might not be a code, Sarina. You have to face that possibility. I know you want it to be but unless not all the words or letters…" he trailed off then, followed by a moment of silence and then her Warlord slapped his forehead. "Scratch that, I think you're right. Lady, I might know who this is from. It… might be Dyslin. He came to me to double check a coded message to an Eyrien Queen in Dena Nehele months ago. He used the first letter of every sentence to convey a message. He would known that if you got a suspicious missive, you would confide in me as your Bonded so you'd know where to look! It’s unbreakable otherwise which makes it Spider-proof. I’m sorry, my Lady, I should have seen this sooner, I just didn’t connect the two."

Sarina stared at Danyal, the pounding in her head distorting his words. Her eyes narrowed as she played those words back through her mind. “You - he - you - I - ” the young Queen shoved to her feet. “I - aaarrrggghh!!” She paced to the window and leaned her forehead against it. She brought her hands up to fist on either side of her head, pressing her knuckles into her temples to push away the pain. Her voice was overly calm when she spoke. “Someone asked you for help with a code and you couldn’t remember this sooner?"

“I truly am sorry, Sarina. It was a mere five minutes months ago. I don’t have a head for codes and trickery, my Lady. That is not the Hague way and even at the time I told Dyslin as much. I’m sure that was part of the point, though. He would not have used something so much at the front of one of our minds that Shira could have seen it.”

Sarina was silent for several long moments as she struggled to find some sort of sense of balance. She wanted to scream. She wanted to hit something - not Danyal, never him - but the part of her that had been trying to learn that it was okay for her to let herself feel things was at war with the part of her that had ruthlessly suppressed almost all emotion for more than half her life. At last, she was able to make herself move again though it was at the price of another angry welt paralleling the one she'd given herself at the start of this obsession with the possibility of another message - one more concrete than the dried flowers. Then the young Queen marched back to her desk, still not saying anything. She couldn't say anything to Danyal; she didn't trust herself to not say the wrong thing, so instead she wordlessly laid a hand on his, trusting that he would understand her apology and feel her love for him.

She sat and pulled the original letter, as well as a blank sheet of paper, to her. She picked up her pen, and with one hand following the words written on the crumpled sheet, she wrote the first letter of every sentence.

VDULQDBRXDUHQRWIRUJRWWHQKHOSLVFRPLQJEXBWLPHZHULVHIURPDVKHVILQGCKPVWUXVWQRRQHHQGXUH

When she'd written the last letter, set her pen down, and allowed herself to really look at what she'd written... the utter nonsense she'd written… she broke. Sarina curled in on herself with a kind of dry-eyed sobbing that became hyperventilation as she struggled to breathe. It was too much. After all that it was still nothing.

"Enough," Danyal whispered as he picked her up. "Time to sleep, Sarina. You need rest and I will hear no more excuses."

He carried her to her bed and when she continued to shake, curled in around her and held her close until she finally slept.

Sarina dreamed. She was alone in a red haze; she couldn't see anything but red. As the young woman walked, trying to find someone or something to tell her where she was, the Queen heard voices - at least she thought the noises were voices though she couldn't quite make out the words. Some of it had a menacing sound, more sounded encouraging. Still more voices sounded worried. Suddenly Sarina's forward movement was halted, despite her efforts to press on. She began to struggle when she realized there was a sticky substance on her face face and hands and as she struggled she could feel more and more of the stickiness coating her. Horror suffused her as the Queen recognized spider's web. The red haze was growing darker when there was an impression of huge wings and a voice that sounded like it should be familiar clearly said "Don't give up. You made a promise." Then the webs were just gone.

Sarina woke with a gasp, bolting upright and struggling to get out of the bed, not aware of her elbow striking something hard that definitely wasn't the wall. She scrambled to her desk, and found the paper she'd filled with the nonsense that was the first letter of each sentence in the missive addressed to Lady Elenor. Then she grabbed the strip of paper with the alphabet written on it that she'd used to try the offset pattern on the original letter.

Her first try again resulted in nonsense. So too did the second. The third however...the Queen grew more and more excited as more and more letters were transcribed.

SARINA YOU ARE NOT FORGOTTEN

HELP IS COMING

BUY TIME

WE RISE FROM ASHES

FIND ZHMS

TRUST NO ONE

ENDURE


For a long moment Sarina just stared, too excited to have something that was recognizable words to say anything. Then she let her head fall, banging on the desk's surface. "I've got words but they still don't make any sense!" Her wail was muffled by the desk. "I'm supposed to find someone? Something? But trust no one? Is 'ZHMS' a thing or a person? If it's a person, why find them if I can't trust them? If a thing, do I need to further decode it?" She slowly lifted her head to let it bang down several more times on her desk. "It would be more logical to be a person, even if I can't trust them, but…."

Danyal walked over to stare down at the decoded message while one of his hands rubbed at her sore shoulders. "ZHMS. What if it's ZH and MS. If it were Zhaleh it would be ZS, so the S must be Sabbah. Which means the H might be Hague, and I know one Hague whose name starts with a Z and who is Dark enough to not be in too much danger from the spider. Her name is Ziba, she's an Aubdina… and her nephew is Mehdi, the gardener. I haven't seen him since the attack but his body wasn't among the dead."

Sarina turned to face her Warlord, her eyes widening as she caught the scent of his blood and saw a drop at the corner of his nose that hadn't been wiped away. She reached up to hold her hand to his face, offering love and affection and apology before she leaned back against him. "Mehdi al-Sabbah is someone Lady Sabbah told me would help me," she admitted softly, "but if he's not here and he's alive….he's probably safer where he is."

She sighed, unable to feel much hope despite the message and the promise of help. "I can't trust no one because I trust you and I trust Ehsan and I think I would trust you both even if you pointed a sword at my heart. But even if you trust this Ziba, and she is who I'm supposed to to find and even if we can find her - do I have the right to ask either of them to put themselves in danger for me? And what if this isn't from Lady Sabbah or her Court? What if we led Lady Shira straight to someone innocent?"

Danyal frowned. “Another riddle. Whoever sent this went to a lot of trouble to make sure that it would not be easy to solve, which actually makes me more inclined to trust it. Tell me, Lady, when was the last time you saw Shira or any of her cronies sit still for more than an hour? They have an agenda and are working fast to see it carried out. This took time and effort. However, before we take any steps, why don’t I go make some inquiries? I think we need to know more before we choose what path to take.”

Sarina nodded. "That's probably wise. Should I respond to this as if Lady Medowlark is the recipient?"

Danyal nodded. “Yes. Respond to the text of the message as if that is all there is. If you must include a message, make it short and do not hint that you are anything but the naive girl they think you to be. If it’s one of Elenor’s people, they will know it’s a ruse.”

Sarina smiled wanly. "I can do that. Go. Be careful, please. If anything happens to you…" She couldn't finish the thought, but turned to compose a response as Danyal slipped from the room.

                        Dear Lady Kaedian Meadowlark,

               I am so sorry to have to tell you that my predecessor Lady Elenor Lirion
          al-Sabbah is assumed dead after the recent revolution in Clan Sabbah.

                Not to presume a relationship when we have not been introduced, nor
          previously corresponded, but perhaps you can share my news with those in
          Askavi who would be concerned? I appreciate having someone give me
          direction and an introduction and would welcome any all future correspondence.

               There is dissent about whether or not to continue salt mine production as
          introduced by our former Queen. Now we need to determine the best path
          forward and I hope to be forgiven for needing to see to my own people first.
          So I unfortunately don’t have a date for any kind of visit to Askavi. I would like
          to beg the indulgence of the contract holders to allow time for us to become
          settled again before we either arrange a visit or seek to negotiate a new contract.

                On a personal note, would you be willing to correspond with me? You would
         be only the second Queen from another Territory that I have contact with and as
         backwards as it seems perhaps learning how other Queens do things will help me
         be a more Pruulian Queen.

               Lady Elenor changed many things here, and a lot of pain and suffering has
          occurred. Zealousness is not the root of all evil no matter who you ask or what
          the issue is. Personally, I believe that war has no winners, only losers. The words
          you wrote lead me to believe you feel the same way. Very few people seem to
          understand this it seems. You come from a different culture and I want to learn
          from you. Will you consider it? Please?

                                                    Sarina al-Sabbah





Danyal written in by Dragongirl

23
Pruul / Re: Letters from the Grave
« on: Jun 02, 19, 04:59:07 PM »
The early morning sun was gentle on the sleeping Queen’s face as she began waking, shifting slightly and stretching herself to awareness. Her arm shifted under her pillow, brushing against something that was not fabric. A sleepy frown appeared on her face as she moved her pillow aside and stared at the envelope addressed to her. Sarina blinked once, then once again, and gave an inarticulate shriek as she scrambled to get up, tangling her feet in her sheets and falling to the floor with a heavy thud.

“Mother Night! Where the hell did that come from?”

The young Queen was grateful to be alone for once as she would not have like either of her Bonded to have witnessed that moment, but she wasn’t alone for long as the audible shriek had been accompanied by a mental one.  As both the men arrived, ready to do battle, in her room, Sarina picked herself off the floor, assuring them that there was no immediate threat. At least she didn’t think there was. Though considering that someone had put something under her pillow while she was sleeping on it, perhaps that wasn’t actually the case. With them both looking on, she gingerly picked up the small square of paper, though not before first shielding her hands. She’d already been poisoned more than once. She wasn’t looking to repeat the experience.

Sarina couldn’t stop looking at the flower she’d found contained in the envelope which had so startled her. She knew that flower, but how? Although she could feel Ehsan and Danyal staring at her in curiosity, she ignored her Bonded as she wracked her brain, trying to remember why it was familiar.

Suddenly, it was as if she was sucked back in time into a memory.

Lady Sabbah caressed a small yellow flower with a tenderness that seemed more than even a Queen who loved the land would display. “This plant is called yellow avens, Sarina, and they are wonderful flowers. The leaves of the plant can be cooked when small and young, but it's real value is not as food, but rather as medicine. Healers can use the plant  to make teas and tinctures that have a wide variety of uses. But it can also be used in poultices to help heal wounds and dull pain Sarina.”

The Queen's eyes flew wide open with a gasp of surprise. Danyal and Ehsan immediately focused their attention more intensely on her. She shook her head, looking around her furtively. They were in her bedroom, but that unfortunately didn't mean they were safe from unfriendly ears. Without a word, she pointed to her ear and made a circulating motion around them. Then she nodded to Ehsan. When he obliged by putting up an aural shield, Sarina looked to Danyal expectantly. Once he had layered his own aural shield over Ehsan's, Sarina added a third layer of her own.

Even considering the triple shields, Sarina kept her voice soft, just loud enough to reach the ears of her males. “It's a message. It's hope for the future, and a promise of help. It's a yellow avens blossom.”

Ehsan still looked somewhat perplexed. Sarina assumed he knew what the flower was, but not what it's significance was. Danyal's eyes, however, widened in recognition and he nodded at her. He understood the message.

**Ehsan, I need you to find a way to take me outside the compound this afternoon. When I can be sure we're alone, I will explain everything.**

“For now, I need to think. And maybe write some letters.”

As the two men left to give her some space, Sarina sat at her desk and pulled paper and pen to her. Who could she contact? Lady Sabbah’s neat handwriting flowed in a list behind the young Queen’s closed eyelids. She nodded to herself and set the pen to the paper as she began writing.

          To Prince Izil Jofari:

            Although we have not yet met, Prince Jofari, you and I should have
        business together.

            I have seen the records of the Salt Mines of Pruul since you have taken
        over the running of them. Your work with them is very impressive - both
        in the centuries old traditional model in which you came to them, and with
        the changes suggested by and implemented with the aid of the previous
        Queen of Clan Sabbah.

            Despite our recent change in leadership, we are not yet a Clan united.
       It is a condition I hope to change with the assistance of my own trusted
       advisers. I believe you will know who they are.

            I look forward to meeting in person in the near future and hope to learn
       still more about the mines.

                                       By my hand,
                               Sarina of Clan Sabbah
                                           Queen

        P. S.
            It is my understanding that you have numerous contacts outside of Pruul.
        Would it be possible to prevail upon you to acquire some seeds for me? I have
        the urge to plant a new garden. I would particularly like to grow some yellow
        avens.


She studied the brief letter; it was concise, mostly impersonal, and said almost nothing. Hopefully the recipient would realize that it was what it didn’t say that was most important, followed closely by how it wasn’t said, but if the was intercepted it would not seem suspicious.

Sarina placed a fresh sheet of paper in front of her. This was going to be much more difficult. This letter could not be impersonal, but if it were read by anyone before it got to its intended target, she was ruined. Perhaps a decoy letter first? One that was impersonal? With that in mind, she began again to write.

          To Prince Lucky al-Izar,

               I would like to arrange a time and a place to meet to discuss recent
           changes to the Sabbah and where we stand with the new Council.

                                             By my hand,
                                     Sarina of Clan Sabbah
                                                Queen


Sarina studied the words: brief to the point of rudeness. Perfect. She would let Lady Shira see this letter; the Black Widow did not like the Council, to put it mildly, so hopefully the rudeness would appeal to Shira and she would not try to stop the letter from being delivered. The Queen would ask Danyal to hand deliver it so that she could give him the real letter to deliver secretly.

           Prince Lucky al-Izar,

               You have no reason to trust me considering who, what and where I
          am, but someone I believe is important to us both once told me that I
          could trust you so I hope you will give me the courtesy of reading my entire
          letter. I sincerely hope that I am not making a big mistake.

               I made a promise to a Queen to protect her people. I intend to keep
          my promise, and it is important to me that you in particular understand
          this. It may be presumptuous of me, but I believe she considered you to
          be one of hers as well.

               There are those who would see me fail in my promise. In fact, those
          who would see me fail are far more numerous than those who would see
          me succeed - at least among those who surround me every day. That does
          not matter to me. I will still find a way, no matter what.

               I would ask for your help, as I was told I could do, but I don't know what
          I could ask of you. Maybe it's better that I don't ask for help. This is my burden
          after all. If you could just remember that not all of Clan Sabbah sought our
          current circumstances, that will be enough for now.

               Actually - that's not enough. There is one other thing I would ask of you:
          if the innocents, or anyone who shows remorse, comes to you to ask your aid,
          please - I beg that you offer them protection. The fewer who remain in harm’s
          way, the sooner Her dream will be realized: the dream of Her Clan united, and
          at peace.

                Thank you for taking the time to read my words.

                                                      Sarina
                                                  Clan Sabbah

          P. S.
          Do you remember the scent of the yellow avens blossom?


Sarina shuddered as she laid the pen down. Even thinking this was dangerous and maybe one of the biggest mistakes she could make right now. So be it. She had to start opening lines of communication with people who might be able to aid her. She folded it and was about to place in inside an envelope when she caught her finger on the edge of the paper, swearing as it parted her finger deep enough to have blood welling up and dripping onto the letter just under her signature. Sticking her finger in her mouth to stop the blood, she debated with herself what to do. It was only a moment before she stuffed it into the envelope even with the blood on it - she didn’t have time to rewrite the letter. Danyal and Ehsan would be back soon and she had to be ready then. She then vanished the letter after addressing it.

She would call it back in directly into Danyal’s pocket while handing him the public letter that it was okay for Shira to read. In fact, she rather hoped Shira would read it and think it meant something completely different. The letter to Prince Jofari could go through regular mail channels. She didn’t think there was anything particularly incriminating in it.  She hoped Ehsan would have news that he had made arrangements for them to leave the compound so she could more safely fill him in.

24
Pruul / Re: Bread and Gravy
« on: May 30, 19, 05:00:54 PM »
The sight of a mostly naked Warlord answering his door was enough to have Sarina flushing a dull red in embarrassment and something else she wasn't quite ready to acknowledge yet. “Um. Ah - I…um...” She stuttered agitated and not really hearing the last thing Theo said. Naya's question, though, had the color draining from Sarina's face as her eyes darted to the Hearth Witch she hadn't fully realized was there. She took in the bed where the other woman was sitting, put it together with Theo's lack of dress, and realized just what exactly it was she had interrupted. The rush of color flooding back into her face was enough to make her wish the floor would open up and swallow her whole.

“Oh! I'm sooo sorry!” She blurted, feeling absolutely mortified. “Darkness, I... I... I just wanted - I mean I was going to - uh...it doesn't matter so I'll just come back, yeah?” She faltered. Mother Night this was embarrassing. What must they think of her? Why hadn't Theo just ignored her knock if he was occupied? She was horrified to feel tears prick her eyes; she felt beyond stupid, this was nothing to cry about. 'Really Sarina,' she scolded herself. 'You are being so childish right now. You've already made a nuisance of yourself, don't make it worse.' She started to turn, to leave, but everything was just too much to process and she didn't get very far - not even fully turned away from Theo's door - before she had to stop and lean against the wall, trying to get a grip on herself.

25
Pruul / Re: I've Earned My Place In The Tidal Waves
« on: May 20, 19, 09:04:22 PM »
Sarina made her way into the throne room slowly and carefully, Danyal staying right at her side. She would have tried for serene and unruffled but her legs were too unsteady and her heart too heavy. Triumph? Celebration?  The woman was more mad than the Queen had realized if she thought Sarina could celebrate losing Rasheed and being poisoned. She reached the two women and dipped her head in silent respect to the Priestess. Perhaps she wasn't being reverent enough, but at the moment she was unable to care.

She turned to see what put that unsettling look in Lady Shira's eyes and froze at the sight of Prince Matin. He looked terrible, although that wasn't a surprise considering what had happened to Lady Elenor. Her heart skipped a beat when she realized that Prince Barin stood behind him. Her relief and shock at seeing him was great enough that she very nearly missed the Black Widow’s words.

His promise to Lady Sabbah? What promise to Lady Elenor would Lady Shira care about?

I redeemed those actions by serving my Queen and the only rightful Queen of the Sabbah.

Sarina managed to suppress a wince at the Warlord Prince's caustic words, though honestly she agreed with him.

Shira's words about a new chapter along with the presence of a Priestess hit the young Queen like a sword to the gut. Darkness, she meant for them to wed now! Sarina's hands inside her long sleeves clenched into fists, her nails digging deep into the palms of her hands. She didn't break the flesh, but it was a very near thing. The sharp pain, made sharper because she had mostly managed to keep from harming herself over the last several weeks, was enough to keep the Queen from panicking.

Deliberately Sarina set aside her grief. She straightened her shoulders and lifted her chin, earnest determination in her eyes as she gazed directly at Prince Matin.

*I made her a promise. I will keep it, I swear.* Her mind voice changed from confident to hesitent. *I don't want this, but it will help me keep my promise. And... and you should know I consider myself a placeholder only.*

As Matin stepped up to the Priestess, Sarina turned to the older women. “If you want joy and celebration Lady Shira,” her tone was frosty as she did her best to channel her upleasant cousin's imperious manner, “then where are the rest of our people? Should not the Clan bear witness?”  She looked at Matin with as much disdain as she could manage. “And you should at least allow Prince Matin to clean up.” She focused on Shira, no uncertainty in her eyes. “Or are you ashamed of your actions?”

26
Pruul / Re: Welcome to the Spider Web
« on: May 20, 19, 04:41:42 PM »
Sarina was tired. It had been a long night preceded by a long day. She was a married woman now. A married woman whose husband wanted very little to do with her. Not, to be honest, that she particularly wanted him to want to do the things that a husband did with a wife, but...it was disconcerting to be so completely dismissed.  She shook her head - fatigue was making her confused. This was not important right now. Right now she was on her way - again - to see Lady Shira. The last time she’d seen the older woman, less than a full day before, she’d been pushed into a marriage she didn’t really want, but that she needed to fulfill the promise she’d made to Lady Sabbah. Prince Matin was hers and that meant he was now Sarina’s to protect and being married to him was the only way she could see to protect him right now. If his aunt and mother thought they would get what they wanted out of the relationship, then they would not harm him too much at least. She also needed the marriage to him to truly be of Clan Sabbah, and being a Queen of Clan Sabbah was the only way she could keep her promise to her mentor.

    What horrible thing was Shira going to force on her now and how was she to survive it? That was all that was going through Sarina’s mind as she walked with Danyal and Ehsan to her husband’s office - and Darkness wasn’t that the weirdest thought?! An office that had been taken over by her husband’s aunt. She and her males entered the office and took the seats offered them. There was no reason not too after all. She accepted the offered drink, although she didn’t really want it, and took a small sip.

    Shira’s question though, made her choke on her drink. Was she being literal? Or was she referring to the way Lady Elenor’s Court had referred to the Black Widow? She took a calming breath. “Who among the dunes of Pruul has not heard of a fatal snakebite Lady Shira?”

What did the Black Widow want from her now?

27
Pruul / Re: Aren't you just the luckiest?
« on: May 20, 19, 04:27:40 PM »
Sarina lay, propped up in her bed by pillows, Danyal at her side, considering all that had happened.

She had lost Rasheed, had been abandoned by the Court. And as if that were not bad enough, she had been poisoned. Not just poisoned, but poisoned by someone who was supposed to be family. Weren’t you supposed to be able to trust family? Not that she ever had with much of this family, but still.

A knock on her door was followed by a child's voice. “Excuse me Lady Sabbah? Lady Zhaleh would like to see you in her rooms.”

Danyal stiffened, his fury rolling down their Bond. Sarina put a hand on his arm. “It's alright, Danyal,” she whispered weakly. “I'd better see what she wants. We're alone now - we have to be careful.”

She gestured for him to open the door to the child. While her Warlord was at the door, Sarina swung her legs over the side of the bed as quickly as she was able because she knew he would protest otherwise.  As Danyal turned from the door to allow the child in, both man and boy were just in time to see the young Queen push herself up off the bed and take a single shaky step before collapsing in a graceless heap on the floor.

She ignored Danyal for the moment, struggling to push up from the floor. She couldn't get her legs under her. She sat there, forehead resting on the floor, for several minutes as she gasped in pain. Finally she looked up at the poor child who had to play messenger. “I'm sorry,” she said, her voice strained. “Please tell my mother-in-law that I would be happy to speak with her, but I'm afraid I will be unable to come to her today. She is welcome to come here if what she needs to speak of cannot wait.”

The child bowed and left, and Sarina was left with an unhappy male at her side.

28
Pruul / Re: Bread and Gravy
« on: May 15, 19, 09:14:08 PM »
For a few moments, Sarina clutched at Theo's shirt, fighting back tears fiercely while he held her tightly, but when he said it was time for her to go back to her own room, the Queen nodded against his chest. He was right; it was late and she was keeping him up too. She was grateful that he was still there as he supported her while she stood. Sarina wasn't certain she would have kept her feet if the big Warlord had pulled away completely.

She let him escort her to her room. Before she opened her door, however, the young Queen turned to him. She reached up to lightly touch his cheek, “Thank you Lord Lirion, really. If - if I can do anything for you, please... just ask?” Before Theo could say anything though, Sarina had turned away and slipped into her own room, the door closing softly.

*********************************************

It had been several days since her late night encounter with Lady Sabbah's brother in the kitchen. Twice more she had gone back for a snack, but he hadn't been there again.  Sarina had seen him several times in the halls, or when she'd been out in the gardens. They'd spoken, just polite greetings, and a few times he'd touched her on the hand or the head, offering encouragement.

Tonight, though, Sarina was having trouble sleeping. It was just...too much. The morning has been spent in audiences with Lady Sabbah, the older Queen quizzing her former Ward on the information she'd given Sarina between audiences. The afternoon had been spent harvesting vegetables for the Geiba children who had come to receive them. None of those who had come had been Barin or Yari of course, or even any of the others she already knew - and all had viewed her with such suspicion that more than once  Sarina had wondered if they would actually take the food from her. She'd spent a couple hours trying - and mostly failing still - to sense the Land again. She could do it sometimes, but not very often and the effort was exhausting. More hours had been spent practicing with her Red.

She'd had dinner in her room, alone for once because Danyal and Rasheed were both working - something to do with security, though she wasn't clear on the details. They were still working, so Sarina wasn't going to bother them.

After some internal debate with herself, Sarina was heading through the halls to where Lady Sabbah's brother was staying. She'd found out exactly where it was when she'd been asked to drop something off for him the day before; she'd been disappointed when he wasn't there.

At last she arrived, and knocked on his door, calling softly “Lord Lirion? Are you there?” She hated the tremor in her voice, but was too drained to prevent it.

29
Pruul / Re: Your First, My First
« on: Apr 24, 19, 05:38:59 PM »
Sarina allowed herself to be guided through the ritual, being taken to the bed and focusing on the candle. Another time, another place, with another person Sarina would be chafing against the ritual - passively allowing Cassius to guide her actions in this would be too much like being a puppet were he anyone else and that was something Sarina could not bear.

As it was, nervous excitement dominated her current emotional composition with excitement the clear leader.

As she began to sway, Cassius spoke and his words sounded far away. The Queen could still hear him, but her focus felt blurred. It wasn't until the wet brush began trailing over her skin that things came into a sharp, shocking definition.

Her skin tingled with each touch, each stroke. Every line of salt traced over her body: arms, face, breasts, her skin quivered with the intensity of the moment. With each touch, the next was felt even more acutely.

By the time the brush began tracing her inner thighs, it was as if each individual bristle trailed a line of firey need behind it.

Cas’ words floated through the haze Sarina felt, and if she could have, she would have shrieked “Don't you DARE stop now!” But that would have taken too much effort and too much time when she was eager to get to the next stage.

Cassius moved down her body and came to her core and Sarina gasped and panted. As he wielded his skills, Sarina was sure it wouldn't be very long before she exploded into tiny particles of sensation. Again and again he brought her to the edge until Sarina tumbled right off. Her lesson with Lady Judiah and Lady Sabbah seemed to pale in comparison as Sarina's body almost convulsed and she grasped at the bed under her.

30
Pruul / Re: I've Earned My Place In The Tidal Waves
« on: Apr 15, 19, 11:02:24 PM »
When one of the Sabbah guards arrived to inform Danyal that Sarina was wanted by Lady Shira, the Queen was able to hold herself together until the man had left them alone again. She then turned to her Warlord, panic in her eyes and voice.

“Oh what am I going to do Danyal? How can I face her, knowing all the things she has done?”

There was so much blame to lay at the feet of the Black Widow who was responsible for Sarina being here now. She'd learned a lot in the last couple of days since waking up from having been poisoned. Danyal had stayed with her, but there were still people here in the residence who had shared with him what had happened. He hadn’t kept anything from her, though she could tell a part of him wanted to shield her from it - and a part of her had not wanted to know.

So much death.

Lady Sabbah - oh how Sarina didn't want to believe the older Queen wasn’t dead; she didn't really believe... she'd sworn she wouldn't after all. But dead or not, Lady Sabbah wasn't here. And so it really didn’t matter what was the truth of Lady Sabbah’s life or death. Sarina had been left behind. She'd known it was likely, even figured it to be probable, but...it still made her feel so very alone, so very small and vulnerable.

Lord Bashir…they hadn't gotten along very well, but Sarina certainly hadn't wished anything bad for him, no matter what he had felt about her. She'd even sometimes wondered if… But now she would never know so she tried very hard not to dwell on it. That wasn’t too hard because all she had to do was think of -

Her own Rasheed. Oh Rasheed! Tears sprang to her eyes as they did when she thought of her tall Warlord Prince - which had been nearly every waking moment of the last two days. Angrily, the young Queen willed away the tears. The last thing she wanted was to give Shira the satisfaction of knowing how vulnerable she felt.

And those were just the ones Sarina knew of for sure, by name. How many countless others had died in the attack? Or the riots? Or the other fires throughout the city? Sarina didn't know, but she was determined that one day she would find out, and she would learn all their names. Each one of them was a cut on her soul where she had already failed in her promise to Lady Sabbah to protect her people. She would pay a Price for them someday when she had saved whomever she could - when she knew what the final tally would be.

These thoughts raced through the young Queen's mind, as they had been; a nearly constant litany of pain and guilt and grief.

Sarina threw herself at Danyal, seeking his strength, knowing that she had already taken so much from him since she'd been poisoned, but needing him more than ever right now. “I don't know if I can handle being around Lady Shira Danyal. Please come with me?”

She wished Rasheed were still alive. He might not have had the strength to protect her from Shira, but he would have been a comfort to her. Of course, if Rasheed were still alive, she wouldn't need quite so much comfort.

Sarina wished her new Bonded Ehsan had already come back. He’d said she would. She didn't know him yet, not really, but that didn't matter because he was hers, and she needed him too. She needed everything and everyone that was hers if she were to survive this. She just knew it.

At last she pulled away from Danyal's embrace with a sigh. “I'd better make myself presentable.”
She stepped away from her Warlord and in short order had cleaned her face and dressed simply in a modest tan dress with a dark brown undergown and wide, golden leather belt.

They walked through the still soot laden halls and into the throne room. Lady Shira was there, along with another woman that Sarina did not recognize but whom she could tell was a priestess. She did not say anything; at the moment she did not care how rude she might be in not acknowledging the other women - she simply stood, Danyal at her back, and stared at the two older women. Waiting. For what, she did not know, but she knew she would not like whatever it was.

31
Pruul / Re: Bread and Gravy
« on: Mar 19, 19, 03:10:15 PM »
When Theo stood up, Sarina sighed and slumped a little. She assumed that now that he seemed to be done with his snack, he would leave. It wasn't surprising really. He seemed nice enough, but he was Lady Elenor's brother and she…. well be she was just the Queen who was supposed to replace his sister, the one selected over his own Queen who by birth should be the next Queen of the Sabbah. There was no reason for him to like her or to want to spend more time than necessary with her.

So when the blond Warlord came around behind her and wrapped his arms around her, Sarina froze immediately, not sure what he wanted or what to expect from him.

His words, though, were reassuring enough that although she still sat stiffly , she did relax a tiny bit. His offer of being someone she could talk to, and of being someone to seek out for a hug (or maybe more than that? A part of he couldn’t help but wonder) - at least she was pretty sure that was what the large - and handsome, she had to admit - man was offering...that had her turning in his arms to bury her face in his chest, her shoulders shaking as she tried to suppress the intensity of of emotions his kindness made her feel.

“Thank you,” her words were practically inaudible as she whispered into his shirt. She did have Rasheed and Danyal, of course, and they would always be there for her she knew that - but somehow hearing those words from someone not tied to her, someone who had no reason to like her at all - somehow that was even more reassuring to the young Queen.

“Thank you.”



32
Pruul / Re: Bread and Gravy
« on: Mar 05, 19, 07:21:13 PM »
Sarina listened with wide eyes as the Warlord spoke, though she also wore a small smile of satisfaction that he was eating some of the hummus. It would fill him up better than the gravy he had been eating.

“Lord Lirion….” She hesitated briefly. “Very few people have ever asked me what I want to do with my life and those who have - they have all been people who I have met in the last few months.” She looked away for a long moment, and when she looked back at her companion, her eyes were suspiciously bright even in the somewhat dim witchlight that lit the corner of the kitchen they were sitting in.

“I want - I have always wanted - to take care of people; to help them be who they were meant to be. It's never really mattered to me who the people were or where…” she trailed off, before she gave a little shake of her head and continued, “Though to be fair, that last might only be because I've always known that I wouldn't have a choice in where I would end up.”

She nibbled at her lentil roll before she spoke again, her voice wistful and unsure as if she wasn't really aware that she was speaking her thoughts out loud. “I also want to be not so alone; to feel like the people around me trust me and want me to be with them - to not just be a burden people would rather not deal with.”

The Queen was silent for a long, long moment before looking him squarely in the eyes. “I made a promise to your sister, Lord Lirion, and what I want more than anything else is to keep that promise to the best of my ability.” Her voice was no longer wistful, “I will keep that promise, whatever it takes from me.”

33
Pruul / Re: Your First, My First
« on: Mar 02, 19, 10:02:55 PM »
Sarina listened as Cassius described what he was going to do, with bright eyes intent on watching his face - looking for…. something, she wasn't sure what. A small part of her was afraid. Not of the ceremony and not of him… she didn't know why she felt that small frission of fear. She was absolutely convinced that she had nothing to fear from the Prince currently sitting next to her which meant that she had nothing to fear from this evening. Perhaps her fear was that she would not feel as changed as she hoped to.

But really, it was no matter. The fear was far outweighed by an eagerness for this night and a curiosity about the Craft and ritual Cassius planned to employ and a bone deep knowledge that whatever happened needed to happen before Sarina could become the person she needed to become.

She listened, and watched him, and when he smiled, she smiled back at him in return. The idea of his having touched her...all...over...her body the way he had described he would made her shiver in anticipation - she had never experienced a lot of touch of any kind from anyone that she could remember. His next words, about playing her with fingers and mouth made her lick suddenly dry lips. That was something the books had made her wonder about - fingers would probably be a similar at least sensation to what Lady Sabbah had shown her how to do to herself, but mouth... she'd read the descriptions of course, but it wasn't something she could imagine feeling and it was something she was intensely curious about.

At his last question, however, she held his gaze as he looked her in the eyes.

“Will anything tickle?”

Not that it would matter. She trusted him, and she needed this to happen. She hoped he would realize that she was ready.

34
Pruul / Re: Bread and Gravy
« on: Feb 23, 19, 07:17:49 PM »
Sarina listened to Lady Elenor's brother as he reminisced about her babyhood, a wistful smile on her face. It would have been nice to have an older brother like him, who could tell funny stories about her, but hers hadn't survived. If she weren't sure he would take it the wrong way, she might ask if he had any embarrassing stories about his baby sister. That would have told her a lot about both of them.

“I wish I had someone who could tell me what I was like as a baby…maybe an older brother or sister. I never thought to ask when I had the chance since I was so young, and now…” she trailed off with a delicate shrug. “Now it's too late and has been for a long time.”

She picked absently at her lentil roll. “It sounds like Lady Sabbah has always been able to see what she wanted and find a way to try and get it. I'm not like that. I don't think...” she didn't finish the thought. He would probably agree that she wasn't a good person to take over if something happened to his sister.

She stared off in the distance for a long moment before she brought her attention back to her companion and abruptly shoved her bowl towards him. “Have some hummus, please. You said you don't care for the lentil rolls, but you didn't say anything about the hummus. It's good with bread too.”

She didn't know him well or even at all, but she could still tell how hungry he was.

35
Pruul / Re: A Storm of Flame and Fury
« on: Feb 07, 19, 09:34:25 AM »
Warning: Hallucination induced self-harm, nightmare fuel

The first thing Sarina was aware of was pain, a pain that washed away the blackness on a wave of red and white. There was no part of the young Queen that didn't hurt. She struggled to remember what could have caused such intense pain. It didn't take long for her to remember pulling that Red-fueled wall of Rage and burning back through her own body to protect the children...but why had she been so enraged?

Then she became aware of the emptiness filling her when there should warmth and strength and she let out a long keening wail of grief and emotional pain. It was at this point that Sarina felt the familiar strong arms holding her close, but before she could find any comfort in them, something….shifted with almost a sharp crack and instead of the comforting lined face of her Warlord, Sarina saw...Rasheed. This was not the Rasheed she had known and loved like a brother for as long as she could remember. This was a Rasheed pale in death, head twisted at an odd angle, bloody foam frothing from his mouth and empty eyes. “You killed me Sarina. Your weakness killed me because I couldn’t help but come to protect you like always Sarina. This is your fault, everything is your fault. It always has been. It always will be.”

The young Queen was trembling, shaking her head, “No! Nonononono...It’s not! I was coming to you, I never wanted this, I never - ” She broke off, weeping, trying to get away, to remember the Rasheed that she had always adored instead of this horror.

The arms around her tightened, and for a moment she thought she heard a familiar voice murmuring to her, but as her vision blurred with the tears, Rasheed was gone, again - Rasheed! and it wasn’t arms she felt around her, but thin strings instead. She looked and they were wrapped around her arms and her legs, around her torso and she could even see them on the edges of her vision where they were wrapped around her face; Sarina could feel them down her back and around her neck too. She froze momentarily as her eyes followed the strings across the floor to...Shira al-Sabbah. The older woman cackled at the young Queen.

“Did you really think you could get away from me, my little pawn? I’ve had my hooks in you longer than you know. You are mine, my little marionette...my puppet to do with as I please who will say what I want her to say, do as I choose, and all I have to do is pull these little strings - ”

Sarina cut the Black Widow off with a cry of denial as she began to struggle against the strings. With every scream and movement the downed Queen made, the Black Widow would smirk, gesture with her hands, and the strings would tighten. Sarina didn’t stop fighting, kept thrashing. She had to get away, she had to - but the strings around her neck were tightening too and she was choking and darkness washed over her again.

She didn’t know how long it was before she was aware, and could think again. Oh Darkness, Rasheed! Where was Danyal? Why did she feel so alone? Then, suddenly, Sarina was not alone. Rasheed was there...dying...she screamed, and screamed, and kept screaming as she struggled to get to him to make him look at her. But it wasn’t just Rasheed any more...no, he was covered with thousands of scorpions stinging him, hundreds of snakes biting him, and he wasn’t dying any more. He was dead and there had been nothing she could do. He was dead and she hadn’t protected him. He was dead.

She wasn’t sure how long she struggled against bonds she couldn’t see or feel as she screamed for the brother of her soul; it could have been hours, or days, or an eternity - but suddenly it wasn’t Rasheed that made her scream...it was the dozens of Geiba children who swarmed towards her, children with murder in their eyes as they piled on top of her, weighing her down, smothering her.

She tried, really she did, to use her Touch to calm them down, thrashing side to side and bucking, trying to get them off her so she could breathe again. If only she could calm them enough to explain - to say that she hadn’t chosen this, that she would gladly pay the Price every day of her life but they had to get off her. But she cracked her face against something hard...was that someone’s head? And she smelled the acrid, coppery scent of her own blood as blackness washed over her once more.

It was pain that brought her out of the darkness again, a pounding in her head that Sarina thought she recognized as a horse’s hooves drumming into her skull. She was tired now, but it hurt so much so she tried to get away. She’d promised Danyal he wouldn’t outlive her so she couldn’t just give up, as much as she wanted to. She tried, but Sarina could not get away from the pounding in her head. When she could focus, she knew she’d been right - it was a horse, a demon horse with blood dripping from its wicked fangs and her hair caught in the talons on its hooves. Every time she moved, trying to get away, the horse’s hooves struck her head again and again from a direction she couldn’t see coming.

She went limp as the demon horse vanished, her throat raw and her voice reduced to a nearly silent screaming that was a mere rasp of sound. Suddenly the young Queen was distracted from the pain and grief and horror by an unfamiliar yet welcome and somehow intimate presence. She looked up and saw a man she did not know. He was a fairly tall Pruulian man with dark hair and dark, intense eyes and something deep within Sarina started to recognize him and what was between them, but then her eyes landed on the group of men behind him and the body they carried - not Rasheed, but someone else she knew and now mourned - [i[Bashir?![/i] No!

But then something shifted again, and Sarina felt another sharp crack and it was Rasheed’s body - but he was no longer being carried by men she did not know. He was covered by hundreds of miniature sandworms that were eating through his flesh. She could see chunks of skin and bone being torn off, shredded by millions of tiny sharp teeth.

Her gaze was pulled back to the strange man as she tried to reach a hand to him, desperate for something normal, something not out of a nightmare, something that if it was what she thought it was would take away the grief and pain if only for a little while.

Before she could do more than lift her hand a little, caught as she still was by the bindings that she could not see...the man was gone and in his place was Lady Elenor. The look on the older Queen’s face made Sarina cower away.

“You disgust me little puppet Queen.” Sarina barely recognized her mentor’s voice through all the vitriol. “I despise you. How could I have ever thought that you would one day be a strong Queen? You’re weak. You offer yourself up to be used by anyone who gives you the slightest bit of attention. You’ve done nothing to protect my people, you never will - you’re too defective. You’ll just get everyone around you killed.”

Sarina shook with shock, with shame, with fear that the older Queen was right. “I - I - I just wanted to Serve - I wanted to protect - I wanted you to love me Lady Sabbah! That’s all I wanted! I didn’t choose this, I didn’t do anything I wasn’t supposed to, I - ” She cut off as the older Queen approached, cowering away, trying to hide her face.

Then...she wasn’t really aware of anything around her for a time. She supposed she must have slept, though it wasn’t a restful sleep. She could still feel herself tossing and turning, at least as much as she could with the weight that still held her.

Suddenly she bolted upright, screaming that there were giant weeds growing out of her face and arms. “Get them out, get them out!” she shrieked hysterically as she shredded her face and arms with her nails, desperately trying to dig the noxious plants out of her skin. Suddenly hands grabbed her again, held her back. Sarina wept as she recognized some of the hands as belonging to Danyal. Her Warlord was here. He had her. Surely he would be able to make all the horrors go away. She didn’t recognize the other hands, but that was okay - they made her feel safe, but in a different way than Danyal’s.

She didn’t know how long Danyal held her like that, his face pressed against her hair, the other man nearby, a soothing presence. All she she could hear was a jumble of all the voices she’d ever known - her parents, her uncle, her aunt. Shirin. Rasheed. Bashir. Lady Elenor. Adel. Matin, Salma. Others she recognized but could not put names to. They were all a jumble, all talking over each other. Each voice blamed her for something - for their death, or the destruction around her, or the attack on the Sabbah compound. They called her weak, they called her a failure. They called her other names she’d never heard applied to her before.

After what felt like an age, the voices vanished. Sarina could hear Danyal humming a lullaby, his voice sounding ragged and tired. She wanted to speak, but she wasn't in control of herself, drifting in and out of awareness as she was. Still, what little awareness she had took comfort in Danyal's presence and that of the other man she could still feel nearby.

36
Pruul / Re: Bread and Gravy
« on: Jan 27, 19, 11:21:23 PM »
At the Warlord’s brusque words, Sarina quickly continued her journey to the shelf that held the basket of food set aside for her. Taking it, and finding a napkin, the young Queen returned to the table, and after hesitating for just a moment, she sat down opposite Lady Elenor’s brother.

She studied the large man for several moments as she broke off pieces of the first lentil roll and dipped them in the hummus, eating them daintily and purring a little in pleasure at the taste. She loved hummus and the lentil rolls were very filling when meat was scarse. She wondered, as she looked at her companion, what he thought of her. She almost snorted out loud at the thought - he was Lady Elenor’s brother and she knew he was Bonded to little Lady Salma and neither of those positions was likely to endear her to him. Thankfully, for decorum’s sake and that of her own self confidence, she refrained from that very unladylike reaction. She would have been mortified had she actually snorted.

As she chewed, Sarina wondered what she could say to him. She was on her second lentil roll before she blurted, “What was Lady Sabbah like as a child?” She blushed a little at the randomness - and suddenness - of her question but continued gamely, “I really admire her, and I would like to know her better, but…” she trailed off then continued, “I don’t think she likes talking to me that much unless she has to and, well, I feel weird asking her a random question like that, as if I shouldn’t take up her time on unnecessary things.” The young Queen set down her food, and picked at her napkin nervously. “Anyway,” she said, suddenly feeling a little bitter, “you don’t have to answer that. I probably don’t deserve to know something so personal.”

37
Pruul / Re: A Storm of Flame and Fury
« on: Jan 05, 19, 09:31:10 PM »
Sarina had sat in the back of the wedding, half tucked into an alcove so as to be out of the way and mostly out of sight but not actually hidden. The young Queen respected Lady Adavera, though she also feared the witch more than a little, and so she was here to show that respect and an appreciation for the witch’s happiness, but Sarina was not naive enough to not be realistic. Too many people still saw her as True Sabbah, even as a puppet, and if people knew why the Tiger Eye witch had been cast from her position as Voice of the Jinan and exiled from her Clan...well then likely they knew it was because Adavera had gone on a murderous rampage against the True Sabbah. The young Red Queen did not want to be blamed for what had happened to the bride so she tried to stay out of sight.

She had watched the ceremony, feeling more than a little wistful and even envious - though she tried hard to suppress that jealousy. Lady Adavera had paid a high price, higher than Sarina thought she herself would ever be able to pay - and now the woman deserved happiness. Still, it was difficult to see the utter devotion on the faces of the bride and groom, and hear the love in their voices, and not want the same for herself.

After the ceremony, the celebratory party had started and Sarina had sent Rasheed back to her room to wait for her. Her tall Warlord Prince was uncomfortable in this gathering as he didn’t really know anyone other than her even after all these weeks, and as he was not Sabbah nor Jinan, he made Sarina stand out even more. It wasn’t long before the young Queen wished that she had gone with him, but she hadn’t wanted to be rude and she had hoped someone she knew would see her and spend time with her. But since she stayed in the shadows, in her little alcove, no one did pay her any attention.

She was just about to go find Lady Elenor and plead exhaustion to head to her room when she heard Lady Elenor’s Gray Warlord Prince start to shout something and felt the change in the air as his shields shattered and sand and wind was suddenly everywhere.

**Danyal! What’s going on? Where are you?** she called mentally. **Rasheed, something’s wrong, I’m going to try to get to you.**

When neither of her Bonded males answered her immediately, Sarina’s first instinct was panic. What was going on? She had heard Lady Kiarian’s cry of attack, and dread filled her. There was only one thing this could be, one person who was responsible, and that thing and that person were what the Red Queen had been dreading for weeks now, ever since Lady Elenor had told her this was likely to happen. People, strangers, were spilling into the courtyard with weapons drawn and cries of anger and pain, rage and fear were filling the air.

Her thoughts whirled, before settling on three things: she had to get out of this mess, had to find Rasheed and Danyal, had to find her way to Lady Elenor and little Salma and keep them all safe if she could.

The young Queen started pushing her way through the melee, doing her best to calm those who were paralyzed with fear, to soothe the rage from the attackers, and otherwise get people moving away from all this when she could reach them to work her Touch; she was more successful with some than others. She had made it out of the courtyard where the wedding and party had been held, and almost wished she hadn’t. The hallway was full of panicked people, angry people, and those who were too stunned to get out of the way. Sarina saw a small group of children she vaguely recognized as being some of the Geiba orphans who had collected the food she had been growing, though she didn’t remember any of their names. She had started to work her way towards them when she saw that one of the smaller girls was knocked over, falling into the rest of the group, and the whole lot of them were about to be trampled by the crowd. She summoned some of the power she could now use, throwing a hasty shield around the children. It wasn’t a very good shield, wobbly and thin in places, but it served its purpose and kept the adults away from the children.

As she finally reached them, one spoke “Thanks Lady. Follow us, we’ll get out of here.” She nodded and firmed up the shield that she expanded to include herself as they began moving with the tidal wave of people.  They had gotten to a less crowded area of the Residence when Sarina smelled the smoke from the fires and heard the explosions and breaking glass.

They were moving along well now when suddenly Sarina felt as if she had been frozen in place and something snapped back into her and her shield vanished as she lost control of it. There was an emptiness now where always before, for as long as Sarina could remember, there had been warmth and affection. She fell to her knees in shock, whimpering “Rasheed, no!” The children turned back to her, confusion on their faces. One started to speak, “Lady, what -?” But Sarina cut the boy off, “GO!” she screamed. As the children turned and ran, Sarina felt her control slipping. Rasheed was dead. That was the only thing that emptiness could mean. She still felt strength from her Bond with Danyal, but right now in this moment, it was overshadowed by loss. Tears were streaming down her face as rage built up within her. She surged back to her feet, turning, seeking a target to burn and movement caught her attention. Power started to slip away from her, towards the movement - someone had to pay, someone had to burn - but at the last moment, Sarina realized it was just the children, that there were no enemies right here and she desperately pulled her power back into herself to keep from harming those children even more than she already had, and then she felt blackness, blessed in a way, because now she couldn’t feel the pain of her Bonded’s death as she hit the ground, stunned into unconsciousness.

As she woke sometime later, Sarina groaned and looked up into the dark, satisfied eyes of Hava al-Sabbah. The Queen couldn’t muster the strength to try to flee; she felt as if a building had fallen on her. All she could do now was send a wordless plea to her males - no, just to Danyal because Rasheed was gone - a plea for help, to come to her.

38
Pruul / Re: Not All Normal Lessons for a Queen
« on: Dec 31, 18, 12:25:06 AM »
Sarina listened as the older Queen reassured her about the kitten’s purring...and her ability to be to be loved by a cat. And it was reassuring to hear Lady Elenor’s words...even if the thought of a dead mouse or bird made her grimace a little. When her mentor told her that she wanted the two identical kittens and that they would keep each other company and asked what Sarina would call them, the young Queen hesitated only moment as she stared at the two orange and white creatures.

“I think I will call them Dune and Dawn, Lady Sabbah. Do you think they will like those names?” She carefully got to her feet, trying not to disturb the kitten she still held - Dune, she decided this one would be. “Will you help me take them to my rooms Lady Sabbah and teach me how to care for them?"

At the older Queen’s nod, Sarina sighed in relief. The younger Queen followed along as Lady Elenor asked a member of the kitchen staff for a covered basket and the two Opal Queens gently put the small animals into it. She was surprised to be thanked for the baskets of vegetables that had been delivered earlier. She watched as another small basket was loaded with some supplies and quietly thanked the woman who told her that food for her animals would be included with her breakfast since she usually had that alone in her rooms, or with Danyal and Rasheed.

Sarina carried the basket of kittens with caution, moving slowly, the care she was putting into the task perhaps more suited to something made of glass, but the young Queen felt she couldn’t be too careful with the lives of creatures now under her care.

Once the two Queens made it to Sarina’s room, Lady Elenor helped her Ward set up the things her kittens would need: food and water dishes, and a large covered box of sand and pair of wooden posts wrapped in a thick hemp twine that someone had delivered to the room before the slow moving Queens had arrived.  Sarina listened as her mentor explained how much food and water the two kittens would need, showed her how she would need to shovel through the box of sand to remove the kittens’ waste and described how the kittens would (hopefully) use the two posts to exercise their claws rather than any of the furniture or upholstery.

The older Queen also talked her Ward through some of the behavior the kittens might display, describing more of the various ways that cats tended to show their affection besides the grizzly presents that had already been mentioned. Sarina giggled as Dawn demonstrated kitty kisses with her sandpaper tongue on the younger Queen’s chin.

Rasheed and Danyal both came to her room before Lady Elenor left, and the older Queen helped Sarina to introduce her new pets to her Bonded males, both of whom wore looks of quiet indulgence at the sight of their Queen with two kittens crowded into her lap.

It was fairly late when Lady Elenor finally left Sarina. The younger Queen carefully moved her pets from her lap to her bed where they promptly settled on her pillow. Sarina stood, walking with Lady Elenor to her door. “Thank you, Lady Sabbah, for everything this evening. I can’t - I don’t even know how to properly thank you. You have changed my life today.”

The younger Queen stood in her doorway, watching as her mentor disappeared down the hall, then she turned and returned to cuddle with her kittens, silent tears matting their fur as she let go of everything from this tumultuous day.

~end~

39
Pruul / Re: Bread and Gravy
« on: Dec 30, 18, 11:16:01 PM »
Sarina woke from a restless sleep, her stomach rumbling. The young Queen sighed in annoyance. She had clearly overdone things in her practice with her new Jewel again if she was waking up hungry. True she had been told this could - and probably would - happen, so she really shouldn’t be surprised, but still. Sarina disliked needing so much when there were so many others who needed too.

She slipped out of bed and wrapped a robe around her slender frame. She didn’t bother with shoes. Her cats, Dawn and Dune mewled at her in annoyance as her motion disturbed them, but quieted as she ran a hand over each of their heads and scritched under their chins. She had found that the pair really enjoyed that particular caress. At the door, she hesitated. She was supposed to wake Danyal or Rasheed if she needed anything in the night, preferably Danyal, but the young woman was loathe to do so. Danyal had been working so hard to keep her and young Salma protected here in the residence and she didn’t want to disturb him. Rasheed...well Rasheed had been working hard with Danyal too, and Sarina didn’t feel up to dealing with the silent reproach she would get from her tall Warlord Prince. Besides, the kitchens weren’t that far away and when she had delivered the harvest from her garden that day, one of the kitchen staff had shown her the basket that had been set aside for her as she adjusted to the new depth of her standing in the Abyss.

Resolutely, and as silently as possible, Sarina slipped out of her room and padded down the hallway. Sometimes she missed living with the Kaid with a fierce ache. It felt as if it had been a lifetime since the last time she was able to take a walk under the desert stars. If she hadn’t been inside walls, this midnight stroll would have been extremely comforting as the night air had always had a calming effect on her. She smiled shyly at the guards she passed who seemed startled by her presence, but not suspicious which was a nice change. Just as she reached the kitchens and placed her hand on the door, one opened his mouth as if to speak, but the Queen slipped through the door before he could make a sound.

Sarina was almost halfway across the kitchen before she realized she was not alone in the mostly dark room.

“Lady.  You are up late.”

The words in a not quite familiar but not unfamiliar baritone froze her in mid-step and she wobbled a little before she hurriedly put her left foot down to steady herself. Her eyes turned to find the large blond man, wide in the witchlight. She had seen the man more than once in the last few days, heard him from a distance as he spoke to Lady Salma or Lady Elenor or others, and she had been told who he was; but she had not been introduced to him.

“Ah. I woke up hungry.” She winced at the inaneness of her words before she took a moment to pull dignity around herself as she had wrapped her robe around her not that long before. She gave a small bow of her head, more of a duck really as she suddenly felt shy.

“Um good evening Lord Lirion. Can I share my snack with you? They left me some lentil rolls and hummus in case I needed it.” She made as if to turn away. “I can take it with me or come back later if you would prefer privacy.”

40
Pruul / Re: When things come together
« on: Dec 30, 18, 07:34:11 PM »
Sarina would have smiled at her Danyal when he caught her if she hadn’t been halfway to senselessness. The newly Red Queen would have thanked him, and Lady Elenor too for still being there, waiting for her, if she weren’t fighting off sleep and a sudden bone deep exhaustion.Sarina hoped she would have the chance to show the older woman how much she inspired Sarina’s efforts, would be able to make Lady Elenor understand her place in Sarina’s heart. As her Bonded Warlord carried the tired Queen through the halls escorted by the equally tired Clan Queen, Sarina did not fight the desire to burrow her face into Danyal’s shoulder and just surrender to the sensation of safety his scent gave her while his strong arms craddled her so tenderly as if she were something precious instead of just a tired young woman. Perhaps it was childish and maybe weak of her to not walk on her own feet in this moment that was the first of her adulthood, she considered drowsily, but it really was too early for adulthood and she rather thought she deserved one more moment of the childhood that had been ripped away years before this morning - she deserved it and she would grasp it with all the strength newly given to her for just a little while until she had to turn that strength towards protecting all the others.

She felt herself being settled down on what she knew to be her own bed because she recognized the texture of the covers under her and she felt Danyal’s lips on her forehead as she struggled to focus, the kiss and his words warming her to her soul. She clutched at his hand even as Danyal straightened, “Thank you” she whispered, “Will you teach me later, please?” She wasn’t sure she’d actually said the words out loud, as out of touch with reality as she was feeling still, the purpose, determination and alertness that had gotten her through the night having fled along with the strength in her limbs to be replaced with the fatigue and not a small amount of dizziness. “Can you sit with me for a time while I sleep, please Danyal?” The young Queen really hoped she’d managed to make that request out loud, but she knew her Warlord was busy so if he couldn’t, or hadn’t heard her, it would be okay.

She distantly heard Lady Elenor agree with Danyal that she needed to speak with Sarina. With a sense of discontent, the younger woman watched as her Warlord back away, his eyes on hers until he disappeared through the doorway, his absence leaving an ache in the young woman. With an obvious physical effort, Sarina turned her heavy head towards her mentor who was coming to sit with her, smiling tiredly at Elenor, worry filtering through the fatigue. “I wonder if you’re proud of me,” Sarina whispered, not realizing she was speaking her thoughts aloud now. “I’ll protect them all, I swear it.” She tried to lift a hand to touch Lady Elenor’s face, but it fell before it got halfway there.

41
Pruul / Re: strike first or not at all
« on: Dec 27, 18, 09:49:05 PM »
As she listened to Lady Shadya speak, Sarina fought to keep from getting agitated, to stay calm, the fingers of her hands clenched at those of the other hand to aid her efforts. She sensed that if she were to have this woman’s respect, the young Queen would need to always be able to demonstrate more maturity than was expected of her. It hurt, a little, that she was not able to act her age any more; not with the Voice of the Clan, not with Lady Sabbah, not with Prince Matin, nor the Geiba. Perhaps the only people it was safe to truly be herself with were her males, Danyal and Rasheed, and sometimes she wondered about the safety they were able to give her to be who she really was - was she even really safe with them?

“Lady Voice…” Sarina hesitated for only a moment. “How can I make a plan, strike first if I don’t have any information? If I’m in a situation where I’m not told anything useful?” She shook her head quickly. “That’s not the right way to ask what I want to know. I guess what I am trying to say is, how do I make a plan if no one will tell me the information with which I can make a decision? Or if I am not told what issues there are?” Sarina sighed with frustration. She still wasn’t sure she was asking the right question, but at this point she could only hope the Black Widow would understand the words Sarina wasn’t able to express.

As she was speaking, Sarina’s eyes never left those of Shadya. “Will you make me a promise, Lady Voice? If I am ever again in a situation where I am controlled...will you help me break free? I will try to strike first, to avoid being in that situation, but - I don’t know if I can. If I am being guarded, I don’t know that I also have the opportunity to guard myself.” The young Queen looked away, her eyes distant as her thoughts went to just how and why she was in the situation she currently found herself in before her focus returned to her companion. “Does that make sense, Lady Shadya? Is that something you would be willing to do for me?”

42
Pruul / Re: When things come together
« on: Dec 17, 18, 04:41:55 PM »
Alright, let's do this.

Sarina’s relief at hearing those words was so great that it was an effort to keep her knees from buckling.

“Thank you, Lady. You have no idea how important this is to me.”

The rest of the day before Lady Elenor returned to escort her to the Residency Sanctuary passed in a blur to Sarina. She napped, and snacked, and napped again - at the insistence of... well pretty much everyone who spoke to her. Then, after dinner, Lady Elenor was there and Sarina was walking with her mentor and Danyal.

When Lady Elenor embraced her, Sarina returned the hug eagerly. There was no nervousness in the girl, so she wasn’t seeking reassurance; rather the young Queen was filled with a sense of purpose and she offered affection and reassurance to her mentor. As Danyal also embraced her and whispered his words of encouragement, Sarina felt her heart swell as she held him tightly, enjoying his presence and his strength.

Before opening the doors, Sarina turned to the two and smiled eagerly. “Thank you, both of you. It means a lot to me that you are here for me as I do this thing I have to do.”

With that, the young woman entered the Sanctuary and greeted her friend Adel, thanking the Priestess for helping to make this happen. As Adel offered prayers on Sarina’s behalf the Queen sought to quiet her mind. It wasn’t an easy task - Sarina still felt that overwhelming need pushing her and that had her thoughts racing.

At last, however, Sarina was alone. She sat, legs crossed in front of her, on the carpeted floor.  "What am I doing?" Sarina suddenly spoke aloud as she had a sudden realization that she was eighteen years old and about to make her Offering almost two years early despite tradition and common sense. Still, Lady Elenor was correct - Sarina needed to have all the protection she could give herself. Lady Shira was much older than Sarina, much more experienced, much more practiced in her caste...and Lady Shira was a fanatic which alone would make her dangerous.

Since her thoughts were still yet racing, she decided to try to direct them and see if that led to a quiet state of being.

Whenever she had thought on this day, this moment, this milestone of her life before now, this was not what she had pictured herself feeling. Back before, when she still considered herself a child, it was something she looked forward to with eagerness at first, until she realized the darkness of her Birthright Jewel and potential Jewel of rank made her more of a commodity to the elders of her Tribe than a person. Perhaps not coincidentally, that was also after the death of her parents and the other close members of her family - people who would have been proud of her as she made her Offering no matter what. Then it became something to look forward to with indifference.

Sarina shifted position as she considered how much had changed virtually overnight it had seemed. Shira al-Sabbah had entered her life and Sarina was being used to fuel a civil war in her new Clan. She could resist descending to her full potential so as to be less of potent weapon. Or she could strive for as dark a depth as she was capable in the hopes of escaping the chains that bound her…and risk being forced to do untold damage.

That wasn’t the last time Sarina’s life - and her thoughts on the matter of her Offering - were to turn upside down. No, suddenly Sarina was a Ward of Lady Sabbah’s Court - Lady Sabbah for whom she herself was little more than an unwelcomed rival. They would delay her Offering as long as possible, she thought, to keep her a child, to keep her less of a threat. Sarina felt that was a mistake; as long as she had not made her Offering, she was the greatest potential threat because she still had the potential to Descend to the Red. The young Queen had considered coming to Adel and asking for help to make her Offering early and in secret. She thought she would descend to her Opal, look for a moment at where she could go to, and turn around, leaving with only the Opal she already had. That would make her the least threat to Lady Sabbah that she could be while still alive (and not so incidentally she would be of the least use to the True Sabbah without being dead). She wasn't sure enough of her friend though, to know if she could ask Adel to take that risk.

Sarina sighed as she rubbed at an itch on the side of her face. Life certainly had a funny way of turning things on its head. Lady Elenor had asked her Ward to consider making her Offering even though it was earlier than traditional because of the danger facing her - danger that faced them all. At the time, Sarina had protested, thinking that she wasn’t ready, that she didn’t know what to do even though she also thought that doing it early could certainly reduce her potential threat to the Clan Queen. But she was ready, before she had even realized it. She also knew what she needed. She knew what she was meant to be.

Lady Elenor had asked Sarina to take care of their people if the older Queen failed. She had given Sarina a task. Sarina knew, now, what she had to do to fulfill that task asked of her. She had to come out of her Offering with the Red - she would need all the strength possibly available to her to protect their people and to fight being used by Lady Shira and the rest of the True Sabbah. She would also need it for herself if she were to survive even relatively unscathed.

She was nervous that she might stunt her Descent, but Sarina was determined. She would have a Red Jewel. If it were somehow possible for her to descend further than the Red, she would do whatever it took to make that happen - but she knew that wasn't possible so she would settle for Red.

Nothing less would be accepted now.

Sarina knew this, but still she wondered. Would she be best served by being known to wear the Red? Would it be possible to hide her Jewel? To let others believe that she hadn’t Descended at all? If they believed her to be weak, would they not underestimate her? She would have to have help hiding her psychic scent. Who would she ask? Lady Shadya? Lady Kiarian? Lady Elenor?

Sarina shook her head. Could she keep that kind of thing a secret from her males? Should she keep it a secret from them, and from other people who were her allies? Who would she - could she trust? Adel was her friend, maybe something more. Darkness but Sarina wanted more than almost anything to trust Adel with anything and everything, but if she did this thing, this subterfuge, would she dare trust someone related to Shira al-Sabbah?

At the same time, if she kept it a secret from someone like Lady Shadya, would the Voice of the Sabbah believe her weak? If Lady Shadya thought Sarina was weak, might she not refuse to aid Sarina when she needed it the most? Sarina just didn’t know. What of Danyal and Rasheed? Sarina had already hurt them more than she had ever wanted to - keeping this kind of secret might destroy them. But if she told anyone other than whomever she asked for help hiding the secret, then she risked it becoming common knowledge.

Over and over the young woman’s thoughts circled and ran: would she, could she, should she? Sarina didn’t know how long she sat there, the same litany of questions cycling through her mind, but she was suddenly startled from her thoughts by the spasm in her leg; she yelped at the unexpected pain. She felt a weight in her hands that hadn’t been there before, and looked down to stare at the Red Jewel resting there. The young Queen smiled wryly; evidently Mother Night didn’t care if she decided to hide it or not - Sarina had her Red.

She continued staring at her new Jewel, trying not to think of anything at all. At last the young woman decided that no, she would not try to keep this a secret. It would be better all around if people could look at her and hopefully decide she wasn’t worth messing with, wasn’t worth angering.

That decision made, Sarina slowly and carefully got to her feet, wincing slightly at muscles that had gone unused for the past few...minutes?...hours?...an eternity? Sarina didn’t know how long she’d been here, but her muscles were cramping so it had probably been quite some time. The Queen spent a few minutes stretching, easing the aches before smoothing wrinkles from her skirt and leaving in search of Lady Elenor and Danyal whom she hoped were still waiting for her.

She pushed open the doors, searching for and finding the desired familiar faces. “It’s done.”

As she spoke, the young Queen’s legs gave out just as the first rays of the sun touched the sky.

43
Pruul / Re: When things come together
« on: Dec 11, 18, 09:06:20 PM »
Sarina was wound so tightly after her pacing and contemplation that she barely heard Lady Elenor's words as she guided her mentor to a seat on her small couch. She sat next to the older Queen, but at Elenor's last question she sprang to her feet and began pacing again.

As she paced, the young Queen shook her head as she spoke quickly, almost too quickly to be understood clearly. “It - I - its got to be today, I would ask to do it right now  if I thought I could.”

Sarina stopped pacing so she could turn to face Lady Elenor directly, chewing nervously on her lower lip and bouncing on the balls of her feet . “I've felt a need to do something, to change something for a while now. It's almost been like an itch.” She blushed lightly.  “I thought it was a desire to do… things… that I needed my Virgin Night for because I would keep looking at people and wondering what it would be like to - well - um” she broke off in embarrassment before coughing to clear her throat. “Anyway, I definitely needed that, but the… itch… to change is only worse now.”

Fearing that perhaps Lady Elenor wasn't going to take her seriously if she didn't act more like a responsible adult,  Sarina forced herself to stand still and take a deep breath, visibly calming herself.

“Lady Sabbah, last night was definitely a big night,” she blushed again, but she managed to keep speaking calmly. “But Lady Sabbah - I have never felt so energized in my life.”

Sarina sat back down with Elenor, but couldn't keep herself from perching on the edge of her seat. “I trust Lady Adel very much and would be happy to have her help me with this. As to the Sanctuary here in the Residence - ” she nodded decisivly. “That is the closest,  so it would be soonest and that makes it perfect.”

She leaned in closer to Lady Elenor, her face earnest and full of entreaty, “Please Lady Sabbah, I need this. Please say I can do this today.”

44
Pruul / When things come together
« on: Dec 08, 18, 07:14:46 PM »
Sarina stared down at the remains of her breakfast,  not seeing it. A part of the young Queen was still was still basking in the euphoria of the previous night - and she felt like she was at once both a new person and still the same within her skin.

An increasingly larger part of Sarina's consciousness was occupied with another issue altogether. The young woman had lately been plagued by a sense of urgency.  She had honestly thought it was because of those books Lady Elenor had loaned her and how they made Sarina feel…and how they made her notice the people around her in a way she never had before… She had thought that - once her Virgin Night was complete - the urgency would be replaced with either a sense of relief or a sense of longing for something she still didn't have; namely a person she cared for who wanted her, just her.

That, however, was decidedly not the case. No,  instead Sarina felt an even greater sense of urgency now. She was being driven by some instinct to do…something.  She just had to figure out what that something was.

Absently Sarina started to dig into the back of her hand with her fork, but she caught herself before the fork had done more than barely touch her skin. With great deliberation, the young Queen set her fork down on the table and covered it with her fork in the hopes of removing temptation. She rested her hands palm up on the table in what had become  her I-will-not-harm-myself pose.

Abruptly she pushed back from the table, beginning to pace with a nervous energy she couldn't contain.  “I know what I need to do.” She said this out loud to her empty room because that made it more real, more final.

On a psychic thread she called to the now familiar mind of her Bonded *Danyal? Can you please find out if I can speak with Lady Sabbah as soon as possible?*

As she  waited, she continued to pace restlessly,  each lap of her room bringing with it a heightened need for action. When the response came that Lady Elenor was on her way, Sarina finally stopped pacing and set about clearing her breakfast away and making sure her room was as neat as it could be. She spared a moment to make sure she herself was equally presentable,  before turning to watch the door.

When the knock came, followed by Lady Elenor's entrance,  the younger Queen didn't even stop to properly greet her mentor. Instead, she stepped forward and gripped Lady Elenor's hands in entreaty. “I have to make Offering today Lady Sabbah, I can't wait any longer.”

45
Pruul / Re: Your First, My First
« on: Nov 27, 18, 11:53:36 AM »
Sarina followed Lady Elenor as they walked to a room the younger Queen was unfamiliar with. The words of encouragement and the intoxicating infusion of Touch had both been welcome. Though Sarina was nervous, she was also excited. As the two women stopped outside a door, she turned to Lady Elenor and threw her arms around the older Queen. “Thank you Lady Sabbah, for everything.”

Sarina rested her head on Elenor's shoulder for just a moment before letting go of the other woman and turning to the door. She knocked briefly before opening it, her eyes instantly on the man within, a shy smile - and a light blush - on her face as she stepped inside. She was calmer as she seated herself at Cassius’ invitation - still excited and nervous, but it didn't seem to matter as much any more.

Once seated, Sarina looked up at the man sitting with her.  “Thank you, Prince Cassius. For everything.” She accepted the small glass of arak and took a cautious sip of the fiery liquor. She set the glass down beside her as she considered his words.

“Do you know, I hadn't known you used to be  a slave? I'm glad you aren't anymore. You are are much more suited to being your own person.” She looked away briefly before searching his warm golden eyes, her own dark eyes a little anxious. “You chose to do this, right? I'm not asking too much from you?”

She thought back to his actual question and said quietly,  “Not really. Lady Sabbah and Lady Judiah gave me  a lesson on…self exploration.” She blushed brightly; she always did when she thought about that evening. “And I've ummm, continued exploring on my own, but…” she trailed off, not sure what else she could say.  It didn't seem polite to ask him about his experiences,  though she was curious.

“Lady Sabbah said you've done this before? You don't mind?”

46
Pruul / Re: Worst Case Scenario
« on: Nov 24, 18, 03:59:44 PM »
Sarina listened to Lady Elenor as the older Queen seemed to have an epiphany, her heart feeling impossibly full. As the Lady kissed her knuckles, Sarina scooted forward so she could lean her forehead on the other woman's shoulder.

“Lady Sabbah, there's nothing to forgive. You've acted out of a desire to protect, to do the right thing.”  The young Queen paused for a long breath, just enjoying this unexpected moment of closeness.

“We are in this together - which is something we are choosing for ourselves. I promise you that I will learn all the things that you have asked me to learn. And I promise that if you fall, I will do my best to pick up where you left off and put all that I am into protecting your people.”

Perhaps her words would have been stronger if Sarina were sitting up straight and looking Lady Elenor in the eye, but at this moment the girl did not care; she was savoring the moment of closeness for as long as it lasted  - she would enjoy it until Lady Elenor pushed her away.

She smiled wryly, not that the other Queen would be able to see it, “I will keep my promise, Lady, but maybe we could try to work together so that perhaps it won't come to that?”

Despite the emotionally charged atmosphere, despite the seriousness of the situation, and despite the fact that her mind was racing, Sarina felt truly…content…for the first time in a long. Someone finally understood.

“Lady, in the interest of striking first, would it not be better to send Lady Salma to safety now, until things are settled here rather than wait until the storm is already on us and hope that we get everyone out?”

47
Pruul / When You Need Advice, Go to the Expert
« on: Nov 21, 18, 02:35:21 PM »
Sarina walked briskly through the halls to Lady Judiah’s rooms. She had sent a note to the Consort, asking for a chance to speak privately with the older woman. A reply had come back with a time and so the young Queen was on her way. She had told her males that this was something she needed to do alone, and although there was some grumbling from both men, neither had pushed the issue. Sarina had told them where she was going, and that it involved women’s issues, and that if it was going to take more than a couple of hours, she would check in with them. It had reassured them somewhat.

Coming to her destination, the young Queen stopped, took a deep breath, and knocked on the door calling out softly “Lady Judiah? It’s Sarina.” When the door opened, she stepped inside, greeting the older woman properly.

“Thank you for agreeing to see me, Lady Judiah. I came to ask for advice. I’m having my Virgin Night tonight, and I wanted to ask what I can do to make it successful?”

Judiah took a moment to sit comfortably in a chair, waving her visitor to the other.  “In my opinion, most of the success of a Virgin Night lies within the Escort, his skills and confidence but on your end, you need to be controlled.  Not passionless, because there can be much passion to be found but control of your fear.  A witch's instinct is to fight to preserve her inner webs.   A good Escort will know how to distract and protect those inner webs to save you from even yourself, which is why it is usually a darker male who performs this task. Fear will cause you to rush for your depths, to try to protect your inner webs but the rush is uncontrolled and you could break yourself in your panic."  She thinks a moment, "Have you chosen your Escort or is Lady Elenor choosing for you?"  Judiah's mind began to think through the men that El might trust to this task.  Bashir certainly not, nothing against the boy but he was still young and impulsive.  Perhaps Danyal, since he was already bonded to the girl but he was more a fatherly figure and might be too awkward. Matin? Oh Darkness save us, she really hoped it wasn't Matin. He might have the skill but .... no, perhaps that new fellow, the Grey jeweled male who appeared at the Court pronouncement.  He was handsome enough and was probably very well skilled and versed.

Sarina had taken the seat indicated and listened intently as the other woman spoke. This was something she desperately needed to hear. She answered the question, though she was a little confused why it mattered to Lady Judiah.

“Lady Sabbah made a suggestion that I agreed with. It will be with Prince Desius.”

Judiah paused for only a second, anyone unfamiliar with her expressions minutely might not have caught the flicker in her eyes, a gnat's heartbeat of change in the golden depths.  "Cassius?  Well....he is certainly extremely skilled and has the training for such a task.    May I ask, why him?  Not that I have a moment's doubt that he will make the experience ecstasy but he has just returned from a deep heart wound and I worry."

Sarina thought for a moment before answering. "I believe  Lady Sabbah's reasoning is that he is not connected to her personally or the Sabbah in general so there is no worry that he might...sabotage me.  As for me - " she trailed off in thought, trying to find the right words.  "He has been kind to me in a way that literally no one else has. Lady Sabbah said that there were other options,  but... " She shrugged.  "I don't know that  there is time for me to get to know any of them.  I feel like there is a sense of urgency, and anyway I do like Prince Decius."

Judiah nodded sagely, "Lady Sabbah's reasoning is sound, though given the True Sabbah's intense dislike for foreigners, I can just begin to imagine the scandal of a Hayllian in such a place of trust but quite frankly, they can go sunbath with the Sandworms for all I care about what they think."   

She smiled at Sarina, "It is important that you trust your Escort, it will lessen the fear somewhat and make things easier.  I wish I could tell you that you have all the time you need to prepare but I believe you are correct. There is a sense of urgency, things are speeding along quite quickly and the sooner you are safely within your Offering strength, the stronger you will be to stand on your own for the things to come."

Sarina smiled back at the Consort. “I do trust him... Not because of why Lady Sabbah does... Or at least that’s not all of it. I guess it’s his kindness and just a feeling that I have. " She looked at the older woman. "But I want to make it easier for him too."

Judiah smiles warmly, "Yes, he is a very kind lad, despite all that was done to him.."  She shook her head slightly, "I had not seen Cassius in many years but at his core he is much like me, he enjoys in the giving of pleasure.  So my advice to make it easier for him is to allow yourself to enjoy his skills.  I did and it was a well worth experience.   Trust in him and all will go well for both of you.  Nothing will please him more than seeing you through safely and quite well sated."  Judiah winked, "and if you enjoyed yourself, don't be afraid to ask for seconds.  He has quite the stamina to please."

Sarina blushed. "I don't think my enjoyment will be an issue Lady Judiah. "

Judiah winked at the blushing girl," No, I have seen first hand how well you can let yourself get swept up in pleasure.  This will be pleasing to Cassius as well."

Sarina's blush intensified. "I just... I just don't want to trigger any bad memories for him again. "

Judiah nodded, "Ah yes, his Queenling who is missing.  Hmmm....if you’re worried about Cassius’ reaction to your Queen scent, distract him from his own thoughts by showing him your own enjoyment.  Don't hold back ....think of the night with Elenor when you let yourself be free and sensual.  He will focus more on your reactions than his own ghosts and both of you will be much better for it."

Sarina nodded thoughtfully. “I can do that...I think. Thank you again, Lady Judiah”

The two women chatted for a little while longer, the older woman keeping things light hearted to keep the young Queen relaxed. Eventually though, Sarina rose. “I had better go, Lady Judiah, before Danyal or Rasheed come looking for me. Thank you again, for everything.”

Judiah only smiled kindly at the girl and shooed her on her way, closing the door behind her.

written with Lene




48
Pruul / Re: Worst Case Scenario
« on: Nov 16, 18, 03:39:55 PM »
Sarina looked at Lady Elenor's hands around her own as she listened to the older Queen answer her question. She was ashamed that she had asked it - what did it really matter as long as they served the same people?  But at the same time, a part of her was desperate to hear the answer. The young Queen yearned for Lady Elenor to trust her, not just with their people, but as a true friend. She wanted, so badly, to feel like she belonged to the older Queen that there were times she felt like she couldn't breathe right.

“Lady Sabbah,  you didn't take my childhood away from me - not even Lady Shira committed that particular crime. It began ending the day raiders killed my parents, and it was gone the day Shirin  died.” She didn't notice the tears that began trickling down her face. “You are not responsible for me being a part of this…this situation. That is Lady Shira's responsibility. But Lady Sabbah, is also mine. Once I was here, I chose to stay. I chose to stay with you.”

Sarina's voice hitched on a sob, but she didn't look away from Elenor. “We would be stronger if we protected each other, Lady Sabbah, I truly believe that. But - ” her voice broke and she hesitated before continuing. “Someone wise told me to honor you by letting protect me. I hate that, but I will heed that advice.”

She took a deep breath, “You should know, Lady Sabbah, that you give me hope - that you've given me hope every day since you first tried to persuade me to seek sanctuary with you away from Lady Shira. You are a bright light more than I could be.”

49
Pruul / Re: strike first or not at all
« on: Nov 16, 18, 02:36:47 PM »
Sarina listened as Shadya answered her question. The Black Widow Voice of the Clan was correct that the answer given was not the answer hoped for. Still, the young Queen listened. She had asked a question and she would accept the answer - to do otherwise would be foolish. Though Sarina was smart enough to realize she'd been foolish many times in her life, she nevertheless tried to limit her foolishness.

She listened, and she committed the other woman's advice to memory. When Shadya finished speaking, Sarina smiled wryly at her.  “Very well. Thank you for the advice.” She looked over her garden but not as if she was seeing the plants. “I think I've already begun to work on your last point. Lady Sabbah asked me to tend this garden for the Geiba.  As a result, I've worked with some of them.” She sighed, “They do not trust me yet. But, still I think they do know I'm sincere about helping them.” She lost the smile as she grimaced. “And there is Lady Salma. It… Well, I guess she will be family as well as Clan. Someday - someday I hope she will understand that I am not here to supplant or replace anyone. Until then, all I can do is try to be her friend and stand between her and those who would use her.”

Sarina pulled her hands out of the dirt at last and turned to face Lady Shadya fully. “You are a member of of our Clan - what is the most important thing you would have me know?”

50
Fall 193, Following Queens will Queen.

Something Buried
Contains discussion of self-harm and mental illness.
Sarina stood uncertainly outside the closed door with her hand raised to knock, but she couldn’t bring herself to complete the action. She looked unhappily at Danyal who had escorted her here from her own room. The young Queen hadn’t told him why she wanted to speak with the Court Priestess just that she needed to. She knew she should tell him why she was here and she knew she probably should have discussed this whole thing with him first, but she was afraid to. She was afraid of so many things right now. She knew her Bonded only wanted what was best for her and she knew he was concerned about her seeing Adel. Sarina hoped he knew he could trust her - but did he trust the Priestess? Honestly, did Sarina trust the Priestess? She just didn’t know - but her only other option for following Lady Sabbah’s order was to speak to Lady Shadya and Sarina could admit to herself at least that the Black Widow terrified her. And at least Sarina already knew Adel and that she wouldn’t be outright mean to Sarina. The Queen just had to worry about being betrayed.

Sarina shook her head, she couldn’t think about that now. She had promised Lady Sabbah that she would follow the older Queen’s instructions without complaint so this was something she had to do. Talking to Adel was not nearly so scary as the idea of talking to Lady Shadya or talking to Danyal and Rasheed. She looked at Danyal again and this time she couldn’t help herself - Sarina threw herself at her Bonded, her shoulders shaking with the effort of keeping herself calm.

Danya’s arms tightened around her, holding her close while he murmured, “Perhaps this should wait until another day, Lady Sarina?”

She didn’t say anything but finally whirled away from the strong arms of her Bonded to knock on the door before she could lose all her courage. Fervently the young Queen hoped the Priestess was in her room. The door thankfully opened and she was bid to enter with a look of surprise on the occupant’s face. She did so, asking Danyal to come back for her later. She didn’t wait for him to agree but shut the door on any protests he had, whispering a psychic **I’m so sorry** to him and him alone as she did so.

For what seemed like a long time, Sarina and Adel stared at each other, neither saying anything. Sarina was searching Adel’s face for a hint of what they were to each other. Were they friends yet? She hoped so, or this might be a big mistake. She hoped so, because she really needed a friend right now. She hoped so, because she felt so alone. She searched Adel’s face, not even noticing if they were alone or what might be in the room.

At last, though Sarina could not have said if it was mere seconds later or an hour, the young Queen spoke. “I’m sorry to bother you. Can I talk to you?”

Adel let Sarina into his room and offered her coffee, gently pressing her when she refused but not insisting. His room is sparsely furnished and they sit down on a pair of cushions on the floor. He waits silently for her to continue at her own pace.

She sat now, staring at her hands. She’d refused the offers of coffee because she didn’t want to make a mess or waste anything - she’d done enough of that just by existing. “I don’t know how to do this. I don’t know where to start. Lady Sabbah said I had to talk to someone. I thought maybe - if you wouldn’t mind - I don’t - I can’t -” Sarina wasn’t even really aware of what she was saying. Without really thinking about it, she pushed up the sleeves of her pale green dress without a word, showing the series of bruises - some were faded almost away, some an angry black and blue, and over all of them were a set of angry red lines on each arm where the Queen had dragged her nails viciously over the older bruises seeking the pain that would give her calm, give her focus, give her courage and let her be here today. Doing so once hadn’t been enough; she’d had to do it again on her other arm before she felt strong enough to seek the Priestess out. She didn’t look at her companion, didn’t want to know what expression would be written over Adel’s face. She just sat there, both arms extended and her head bowed, her mouth silent and her heart thundering, feeling ashamed and a little faint.

Sarina felt Adel’s hands on hers, fingertips brushing against her palms and wrists. The Queen jerked, but didn't look up.

“Thank you for coming to me.” The Priestess’s voice was gentle and measured, not judgmental, not angry, not disappointed.

When Sarina spoke, her voice was barely a whisper. “Lady Sabbah said I needed to get help with this, but I -” she drifted off. At last she looked up at the Priestess, her eyes almost devoid of the fear and shame she felt, but rather full of anxiety. “I don't know how to ask. What do I do?”

Adel’s eyes searched the Queen’s and she shifted back on her cushion. “You have taken the first step, and it’s alright that you needed help to take it. That in itself is brave.” She paused. “Does anyone other than Lady Elenor know?”

Sarina shook her head. “Not unless Lady Sabbah has told anyone. I've - I've always hidden it. I honestly don't even know how she realized it was a...an issue. I was... supposed to tell Lord Danyal and Prince Rasheed, but I - I just can't. Lady Sabbah already accused me of...trampling their hearts was how she put it I think... for wanting to help her with her problem with Lady Shira. How much worse is this? Especially for Rasheed…?”

She fidgeted, unhappy with herself. “It's...I'm afraid of them being angry or anything else.”

“I know you have only recently met Lord Danyal, but has Prince Rasheed ever deliberately hurt you?”

Sarina’s eyes widened. “No!” she exclaimed, horrified at the idea. She was quiet for a long moment, long enough that Adel would have been forgiven for thinking she wouldn’t say anything else. In a small voice, the young Queen added, “I’ve hurt him before.” She bit her lip, but didn’t elaborate. She looked away again, hunching in on herself.

Adel gave her a moment before speaking again. “Which do you fear more, that you might hurt him or that he would respond with anger? Or is there something else?”

Sarina whispered, “He doesn't deserve to be hurt. If they don't know, they can't be hurt can they?” She was mortified to feel a tear trickling down her face and she wiped it away fiercely.

“Secrets are tricky things, and the longer you keep them the more difficult they become.” Adel paused. “Blood Males are bound to protect, both by Protocol and by instinct. Hiding your pain from your Bonded may shield their emotions, but it is a lie that you can't keep forever and once it comes out there will be a price, for you and for them. If they truly care for you and your wellbeing, they would rather hurt and know what you need from them than be denied the chance to help.”

Sarina's voice was bitter. “I've kept it a secret for more than ten years - more than half my life! Why couldn't I just keep it longer?” Angry tears were falling fast and thick now, but Sarina didn't pay any attention to them. “If she'd minded her own business, I would have the secret still and everything would be fine! No one would have to know and I wouldn't have to worry about losing control and hurting the people I care about!” The young Queen's voice became a whine,  “Everything would be fine!”

Adel didn’t respond immediately, allowing Sarina her emotions and tears. “Lady Sarina, I would like you to try to take a step back from what you are feeling right now. If you learned that Prince Rasheed had lied to you because he thought the truth would cause you pain, how do you imagine it would feel?”

Sarina wiped at her eyes. “That's different.” Her tone was mulish. She grimaced, ashamed of how childish she sounded. Sarina closed her eyes, taking several deep breaths trying to center herself. As she did so, the fingers of her right hand dug nails into the back of her other hand.

She sighed. “I'd like to say that if I knew that he had a reason to keep it from me that I would understand. But I'd be upset.” She clenched her hands into fists and and looked at Adel, a stubborn set to her face. “But that would only be if I found out,” she pointed out, reasonably she thought. “I still don't think there's any reason they should have to find out.”

“Even if I accept that, does that make it alright? If you steal something from someone that you are sure they will never miss, does that make it, morally, not a theft?” Adel reached for Sarina’s hand again, turning the left to show the red crescents left by her nails. “And if you are so determined that no one else will find out, why don't you Heal yourself?”

As Adel spoke to her, Sarina's eyes clouded in confusion. What did that have to do with anything? Of course theft was wrong, but this was about keeping someone's heart intact. Totally different, not related at all.

As the Priestess took her hand, Sarina felt a faint spark of something unfamiliar but it was completely overshadowed by Adel’s next words.

“I - I - I don't -” she floundered, her voice rising in pitch as horror suffused her. She covered her left hand, still held by the Priestess. “I don't know how,” she admitted, her voice small. “I've never left a mark where I couldn't hide it.” The young Queen looked desperately at Adel. “Can you do it?”

“No.” Adel's voice was flatter than it had been, a bit exhausted but not unkind. “I am not able to, and if I were I would… not refuse, but I would want to be very careful about the reason I was doing it. You have a long and difficult journey if you choose to take it, and it is very easy to make small excuses and justifications and for those small things to overtake the progress you have made.”

Sarina’s face crumpled. “You can’t?” She was full of desperation. “Now what do I do?” She hugged herself tight. “Do you think I can just hide my hand in my sleeve so they don’t notice? Or should I go straight to the garden so I can wear gloves and hide it that way?” She looked pitifully at the Priestess as she shook with horror. “I don’t know if I can tell them. I don’t - I can’t - “ She curled her knees up so she could hide her face in them and wailed “They’ll hate me!”

“I doubt that. Trust me when I assure you that it incredibly difficult for a male to harbor hatred for his Bonded Queen, even when he has every reason to, which yours do not. What you have done is not action worthy of hatred. If they are angry, it will come from a place of concern and caring for you and guilt for not having seen it before.” Adel chewed on her lip as she thought. “I would say that whether you deal with this is ultimately your choice, Lady Sarina, but I don't think that can be true. As a Ward of this court, I have a responsibility to help you in this as surely as Prince Dyslin has to ensuring your safety. I cannot, in good conscience, tell you that if you choose not to face this problem I will accept that decision, but I will give you options for how this battle is fought. If you do not currently have the strength to tell your males, you can wait, but understand that a time will come when I will accept no excuses. Alternatively, I can talk to them for you. Instead of them learning of it on accident or while you are distressed, I can explain to them why people hurt themselves like you have and impress on them the importance of patience and compassion while you work towards healing. If they have anger, let them direct it at me. You are not alone, and you do not need to carry this burden unsupported, do you understand?”

Sarina looked up at Adel, her face pale but now full of desperate hope instead of just desperation. “You’d do that for me? Truly?” Sarina's thoughts were a maelstrom of confused emotions. “You won't hate me either? I'm not - I'm not strong. I'm not strong at all. If - if I were I would have kept this hidden and not even Lady Sabbah would have seen it.”

The Priestess locked eyes with her, looking steady and determined. “I will do this for you, and I don’t hate you. I don’t think you are weak, either. Not for hurting yourself and not for getting caught. You came here and you have listened to what I have to say, and are willing to try to be better. All of those things take courage.” Adel reached for Sarina’s hands a third time, but this time she grasped them firmly, still holding her gaze. “Your survival has taken courage.”

Sarina clutched at Adel's hands, the young Queen more than a little tempted to throw herself at the Priestess and weep in gratitude. She didn't let herself do it, but she did lean towards Adel, with her need to be held was written plainly on her face.

“Thank you Lady Adel. I am not strong, no matter what you say. I came here because I promised Lady Sabbah that I would not complain about doing as she instructed me to do. Please - “ she broke off as her voice hitched in a not-quite sob. “Please help me do this.”

Adel was frozen for a moment then she released Sarina's hands and wrapped wrapped her arms around the Queen, rocking her gently and stroking her hair.

“I will help you. I promise.”

Sarina finally relaxed as she felt the Priestess’ arms wrapped around her and savored the moment. Somehow,  now,  the Queen felt safe. “Are you - are you my friend? “ Inwardly,  she was chanting please say yes please say yes please say yes, but she couldn't quite get the words out.

The pause before the Priestess responded felt like an eternity to the Queen and she wondered what she would do if the answer was negative. Thankfully, Sarina didn't have to worry for long.

Adel's simple “Yes” had Sarina suddenly feeling like a weight she hadn't realized she carried had been lifted from her.  She snuggled into Adel's arms and spoke,  her words muffled but no less heartfelt.  “I think I needed to hear that more than anything else you've said to me. Thank you.”


written with Mu and DragonGirl

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