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Author Topic: Tha Scottish Play: Last Call  (Read 1163 times)

Description: Niall and Epona have a heart-to-heart

Offline Niall Burne

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Tha Scottish Play: Last Call
« on: Mar 13, 16, 02:25:13 PM »
After his harrowing interview with Aaron Falkirk, Niall badly needed some peace and quiet to regroup. And that wasn’t easy to find in a theatre where 90% of one’s time was spent either on the stage or preparing for someone being on the stage. The company tended to live in one another’s pockets with such close deadlines, all the better to pull together when needed. Niall had already been stopped a dozen times today for tearful goodbyes or gruff advice. Moira had even given him The Hat. Yes, the thing deserved the capitals.

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

Niall finally made good on his temporary escape by carefully climbing the old bell tower. It had yet to be repaired, which made it a less than desirable hangout for saner minds than he. But, oh, was the view beautiful. The unwritten Protocol of the theatre should ensure that no one came after him without good cause (i.e., “Those Blood let that beast inside again, Niall! You can handle that, right?”). So the Warlord was free to contemplate the snow-covered vista before him in silence, turning the brim of The Hat in his hands as he thought.

This might be the last time he did this, he realized- even if the only post the Falkirks declared him fit for was Court Dung Shoveller. He’d go anyway, and hope they were as good about letting him work his way up as the theatre had been, but it was still a terrifying prospect without Yseult’s magic soothing presence around to reassure him it would be alright. The last time he’d left a Clan, it was with nothing to lose. But though the folk of the Hammer and Anvil shared no Blood, they’d come to fill that function in his heart and that gave him something big to be leaving. Niall swiped at his face as a few sentimental tears fell, glad he didn’t have an audience to present a front for tonight.

Offline Epona Corcoran

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Re: Tha Scottish Play: Last Call
« Reply #1 on: Mar 13, 16, 02:38:13 PM »
Autumn, 190 AP, The bell tower at the Hammer and Anvil

She knew where to find him, of course. Epona Corcoran tended to her Theatre Troupe with all the careful affection and baffled devotion of a mother hen with a few too many chicks. When Arthfael was upset she'd find him in the old Blacksmith's Shop turned Stage Hand Workshop, pounding old metal relentlessly into shape. Ferguas would go walk along the bank of the river, without a thought to the weather or flash floods. Blue Fairy number five (And poor Ellsa would likely never be known by anything else, now) would climb the great tree.

Niall Burne was another one who sought out his place of emotional comfort with no thought to the physical. The top of the old bell tower offered a breathtaking view, the silvered snow glittering and sparkling like fairy dust as it swept away to the river in the south, and the glorious sparkling jewel of Tuathal in the north. The great tree that centered the courtyard of the Hammer and Anvil had been lit with paper lanterns, in honor of the Falkirk Clan Queen's attendance, and the blue-tinted paper they were made of gave an otherworldly feel to the night as they competed with the stars for shear beauty.

There was no true hope for them, of course; the fragile lanterns borrowed their light from others. But they burned all the same, much like an actor. A beautiful, fleeting light borrowing glory from those who came before. Epona approached slowly, drawing out the moments before he acknowledged her. The moonlight was flattering to him, as most any lighting was, but today she was more acutely aware of his place in myth and shadows than before. The sorrow and loss sat heavily upon him, which deepened her own baffled hurt.

Epona felt lost; unduly bereft by an incident more fabled than Bard Taliesin's Harp or Cuchalain's Hounds. It didn't seem fair; the Queen could have any male she wished. Why take Niall? But seeing the anguish sculpted by the shape of Niall's hands as they rested on The Hat, the angle of his chin as he watched her watching him, she knew that she would never voice that complaint.

Instead, she offered him a gift, her clear, sensual soprano lifting and soaring through the night. She needed no music or instrument, no metronome or undue head wagging to keep time, and her aching soul gloried in releasing its pain.

(Excerpt from the Show Must Go On)
"My soul is painted like the wings of butterflies
Fairytales of yesterday will grow but never die
I can fly - my friends
"

Epona wondered if he would be lured into joining in the chorus. Though he was as likely to listen as to sing, he had a fine voice when so moved. She never moved her gaze from him; this was no performance for charming an audience, but a gift to a wounded friend.

"The show must go on
The show must go on
I'll face it with a grin
I'm never giving in
On - with the show -
I'll top the bill, I'll overkill
I have to find the will to carry on
On with the -
On with the show -
The show must go on...
"

Epona allowed the last notes to fade gracefully into the night, then finally managed a lopsided smile for Niall. "She may have given your soul wings, Niall Burne, but I painted it first." Her gaze remained locked to his, searching, questioning. He was subtly different, more dangerous and other than yesterday. Deep in the night like this, she was reminded that the fairy tales of her people were largely based on the Jeweled Nobles as the inscrutable, heartbreaking Fae whose gifts always cost more than they were worth.

Her smile faded to pensive and she took a step closer. Right then, she didn't care. Niall was worth it, precious and brilliant, sweet and loyal, and she would do whatever it took to help him through this. Or at least, to not make it harder than necessary.





Offline Niall Burne

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Re: Tha Scottish Play: Last Call
« Reply #2 on: Mar 16, 16, 08:35:43 PM »
Niall startled slightly as the strong soprano rang through the silence of the bell tower, twisting around to watch her approach. He'd been avoiding her as much as Yseult because he had no idea what to say to the Landen woman that would be enough to explain his abandonment of their little family here. His interview with Aaron Falkirk had reminded him anew of how far he'd come with their help and Epona's care and courage.

He listened to her sing, letting that sensual soprano float though the air alone. She needed no accompaniment, every note pitch-perfect, and he had the sense that the song was a gift. A blessing. It would be wrong and self-serving to intrude. It was only when that poignant sense of pain in her bearing faded to a lopsided smile that Niall felt right in offering one of his own. “Painted it? Lady, I wouldn’t have a soul if it weren’t for you. And the others. You took in a broken man in more than one respect, a strange, fey creature who would have felt it a fitting fate to live out his life under the nearest rock, and called him one of your own. Made of him a man unafraid to take center stage.”

In a move that would have been outrageous a few days ago, Niall stood gracefully and took Epona’s hand to tug her into an embrace if she permitted it- her back to his front and his arms wrapped around her waist in a pose more comfortable than sexual. He was aware of her as a female, of course, lively and lovely, and now he was free of some of the constraints that kept an actor from crossing certain personal space boundaries with his company’s owner. He was also, perhaps, a little more willing to admit to the skin hunger of a Blood male instead of keeping it sated with the basic comfort of sex instead of intimacy. But this pose was mostly about emotional comfort- giving her reassurance and taking a little of it for himself to see him through the difficult times to come (facing the creator of the Witchstorm!).

“I’ll do my best to be a credit your training out on that wider stage of life, but I thank you for it regardless.” The Warlord nuzzled the back of her neck like a puppy, breathing in the unique scent of her. It was odd for lacking a psychic component, but the lack of such only emphasized her physical one in his senses. “If you’ve questions for me, you can ask them now. No holds barred.” Honesty was one of the few things he had to give her now and the prospect was lot easier when he was looking over her head out into the night instead of those wounded eyes. Or perhaps he was just too tired to hide anymore after being raked over the coals by Aaron Falkirk and agreeing to confront one of his biggest demons.

Offline Epona Corcoran

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Re: Tha Scottish Play: Last Call
« Reply #3 on: Mar 17, 16, 04:58:30 AM »
Autumn, 190 AP, The bell tower at the Hammer and Anvil

Niall had always been both a keen observer and a good audience. Epona Corcoran had never quite appreciated it as much as in those moments when her song was swallowed up by the night. He wasn't too shy to meet her gaze, nor made uncomfortable by her song and intense scrutiny. But his real genius, as an audience, lay in not needing to top the given performance.

His smile answered hers, but his words softened her smile to something at once proud and longing; he was a phenomenal actor. Any man could parade around behind a Queen. Few could dominate a room - or stage - with but a few words and a shift in posture. She found it poetic that he, too, traced his nature back to their shared Fae myths. "Niall Burne you should always take center stage." She slipped her hand into his, pleased that he wasn't going to retreat into Blood Protocol so far as to eschew the casual, friendly touches and embraces that were a part of the Performing Arts. But he exceeded her expectations.

Epona's rather startled, breathlessly beautiful laugh surrounded them as he tucked her in against him, politely turning her so the vast vista of Scelt met her gaze. His embrace, somehow protective and melancholy all at once (and who but an actor to manage that in one move?) made her feel safe. She pressed into his warmth, and rested her hands gently upon his. She felt that she should speak, yet didn't want to break the spell.

It had been a long, long time since Epona felt as safe as she did right then. The tension eased out of her shoulders. That tight, strained tendon in her neck visibly eased. If her right arm was still sore enough that she cradled it on his arm instead of politely holding the weight herself, it was still the only sign of tension that remained.

He spoke then, and she hastened to reassure, her hands stroking comfortably over his, "You had better, Niall. You came alive here, for us, for stage. I hate to see you loose that." The words could have been teasing, or commanding. "You can always come home." But they were wistful. Hopeful for him; sad for herself personally, and her company professionally.

When he nuzzled her neck so playfully she angled her head ever so slightly towards him, tense at first and then slowly relaxing. She went very, very still as he offered her complete honesty, her hands tightening on his. "Are you going to marry her?" In the plays the orphaned beggar was always discovered to be the heir to some great power. And he always married his Bonded Queen. "What will you do for her? You are both strikingly handsome and aggressively fit but I don't see you happy as a member of the Queen's Chorus. She owes you more than that."

Offline Niall Burne

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Re: Tha Scottish Play: Last Call
« Reply #4 on: Mar 20, 16, 02:30:57 PM »
Marry her?” Niall yelped in surprise, startled into the rather undignified reaction. But the thought had never even crossed his mind and for a few moments he wondered where on earth she’d gotten that from. It was still early days yet with Yseult –he hadn’t even seen the Queen since their tumultuous meeting- but he was fairly certain marriage wasn’t in the cards. He would, he suspected, if she required it of him for some reason. But romance wasn’t what he needed from her. Hell, he wasn’t sure he was even capable of romance as he was right now. He’d just started reforming friendships and marriage-worthy relationships were vastly more complicated than that. Niall wasn’t ready to start thinking about romance- and if he were, Yseult wasn’t the female he had in mind for the venture.

But it went that way in the plays, didn’t it? Male meets Queen and they ride away into the sunset, happily ever after. It was probably the only way Landen could understand the sort of feeling that existed between a bonded male and his Queen since they didn’t have the senses that such a bond satisfied. But everybody had romance. “No. I won’t be marrying her.” The Clan Laird really would kill him dead. “That’s not the sort of relationship we’ll have. At least, I don’t think so. It’s more…” The Warlord groped for an explanation. “Did you ever meet someone and feel you’d known them all your life? That… something about them compliments something about you, and you just fit together in your lives?”

He startled slightly at her conclusion that he was both handsome and fit –he’d never had a clue the theater owner had noticed such things- and chuckled softly. “My ego thanks you for the compliment, my lady.” Indeed, whatever small sliver a Warlord might carry of that force the Warlord Princes called their ‘beast’ was certainly preening inside him. “But my professionalism is forced to remind you of that old saw: there are no small roles, just small actors.” Niall coaxed Epona to turn back around and face him, wanting the eye contact now. “I’ve been offered a position as an aide to their Head of Security. I’ll be learning the Clan and the trade from him for now, and then we’ll see what comes up.” On the surface, it wasn’t the most glamorous position or best match to his skills, and he wouldn’t be surprised for the Landen to make that protest. But if half of what he suspected of Aaron’s true role was accurate, he’d actually be hard-pressed to find a better match for himself. “Everyone’s got to start somewhere- even here, I didn’t walk off the street and into the spotlight, right?” He wasn’t going to touch the issue of what Yseult owed him. Not even for Epona. That was between he and his Queen.

Offline Epona Corcoran

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Re: Tha Scottish Play: Last Call
« Reply #5 on: Mar 20, 16, 04:47:37 PM »
Autumn, 190 AP, The bell tower at the Hammer and Anvil

Niall Burne's yelped surprise at the notion of marrying his Bonded Queen brought forth a second laugh from Epona. He sounded like a youth being ordered to learn social dance, and the usually suave man's obviously disconcerted response to her question made it impossible to smother her mirth completely. She was relieved, despite being unsure what the Bond meant if not romantic love.

Epona considered his next idea carefully, of people fitting. It was rather as she handled hiring people for the theatre, she supposed. A certain spiritual connection, the flow of faith. Faith as evidence of things unseen had always made sense to Epona in terms of people. It was much like casting for a play. It made less sense with inscrutable things like Mother Night.

She hesitated, rewording something, before answering his inquiry. "Arthfael. More than a brother, yet never a lover. We've always been close, like peas in a pod, my sister would say. We're like plays written by the same author. Unique, yet the core resonates with the same heart." Many Landen assumed she and Arthfael were lovers, but if the Blood she worked with thought so they had never deemed it worthy of comment. Much as Niall, she supposed. Though now his play appeared to be a heart-breaking Tragedy to her quiet Drama or Arthfael's rowdy Comedy.

Niall chuckled into her hair at her honest observations as to his good looks. He corrected her gently, reminding her of small beginnings even while turning her to face him. Something in his voice told her that he was deeply satisfied with his position as Aide to the Falkirk Prince who had dared to ask questions to which he was not permitted answers. "I met Prince Aaron. He's dangerous. And nosey." A judgement almost as fatal as boring in theatre terms. Their embrace was now more powerfully intimate, as he sought to hold her gaze. Try as she might the faintest heat rose in her cheeks.

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Re: Tha Scottish Play: Last Call
« Reply #6 on: Apr 02, 16, 05:01:17 PM »
"Something like that, yes." Niall concurred with Epona's analogy of authors and plays. It would actually be more accurate to call a Queen the author and her bonded males the plays; her presence wrote itself on them to give them life and purpose they would not otherwise know, yet the experience of writing herself on each male's soul inevitably changed that Queen too. He wondered how he'd change Yseult, and prayed it wouldn't be for the worse.

Something in his eyes shifted as she called Prince Aaron dangerous and he had to forcibly remind himself that a landen like her would use that term for any Blood. He'd spent the last hour or so speaking with the man, had warned him on this very subject, come to think of the Prince as a potential friend and mentor, and part of him would still be happy to go try and punch his face in if Epona implied he'd seriously scared her.

"It's his job to be nosey, in the name of protecting his Queen. Especially when that Queen has just brought a total stranger into a close-knit family, and had no past ties to recommend him before two years ago." Niall put a chokehold on his temper and did his best to summon up his most charming smile to reassure Epona. "We've had a chat about that, and he shouldn't be nosey anymore. You'll let me know if he does, yes?" Again that something other, darker, flared in his eyes even as his mouth held the same smile. Niall resolved to tell Arthfael that as well, more confident that the blood male would report a threat to Epona's safety than the lady herself.

Offline Epona Corcoran

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Re: Tha Scottish Play: Last Call
« Reply #7 on: Apr 05, 16, 05:23:41 AM »
Autumn, 190 AP, The bell tower at the Hammer and Anvil

Epona Corcoran felt the tension in Niall's body, heard the faintest undertone in his voice; she might have attributed both to the way their embrace made her own heart beat harder if it hadn't been for his eyes. Something dark and alien moved there. It occurred to Epona that he was upset on her behalf. She slid her left hand along his arm, soothing him. It was odd, to sense and see the darker side to the man she'd known for two years. There had been hints of his great, hidden grief when she had first hired him, but he had always been sweet and gentle with her. Always.

Niall was changing, somehow. Just as the tension in his body, even his very actions in holding her so were new, so was that hint of a darker need lurking in his eyes. She hated to see it there, hated to think about how the Blood's violence would hurt him, crush out the joy he'd only just learned to feel. He was far, far too gentle to be a thug. Her hand moved to his upper arm and squeezed reassuringly; his arm was alarming hard and muscled beneath her fingers. Her voice softened, worry flooding her eyes. "Will you be happy, Niall?" The question rang between them for a few seconds, before she reluctantly continued, lest he find her first question too personal. "Happy working in Security, like Arthfael? He's got more thug in him than you. You've always avoided brawls and ruffians."

Epona considered his final words quite carefully, but ended up shaking her head. "Prince Aaron should trust his instincts more." Her chin tilted up, showing bravery but her eyes echoed concern. "I won't tell him anything, if he does come back, and I don't want you to worry. We'll get by, we have each other." She forced a smile, though it didn't reach her aching eyes. "It's you I'm worried about. You'll be all alone out there. I thought I taught you better than to accept solo parts from strangers."

Offline Niall Burne

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Re: Tha Scottish Play: Last Call
« Reply #8 on: Apr 23, 16, 04:15:50 PM »
"Security, yes, but not like Arthfael." Niall ignored the question of happiness for now, choosing address more practical (and less personal) concerns. "Some security requires a defter touch than fists." His expression shifted -he had no idea what it was showing at the moment, and wasn't that a disturbing realization for a man whose livelihood had until now depended on his control of face and voice!- as guilt tried to wind its way up into his heart. He wasn't the man Epona thought he was, and that was his own fault. He'd tried so hard to live embrace the simpler things and live up to the man she and the troop thought he could be. The man he dimly remembered from before the Massacre and that he wanted to be.

But that didn't change the fact that he was no gentle lamb. He'd avoided brawls and ruffians first because he'd been too weary to care and then out of terror that he'd go too far. Landen, as a rule, didn't have the violence in their lives that any Blood accepted as a matter of course, and he'd feared shedding the comforting protective camouflage he'd adopted lest they recoil from him. He'd had nowhere else to go. He still couldn't bear to disabused Epona of her opinion of him, even now that she understood a bit more about what he was.

"I won't be alone." The thought came quickly and confidently, with a smile Niall couldn't repress. He wouldn't be alone so long as his Queen's presence echoed in his mind and heart, and he doubted Yseult would stand idle if she thought he felt lonely in his new home. "Think of it instead as joining a new chorus- everyone might begin as strangers, but if they know their craft, they learn to support one soon enough. No matter what happens off the stage." He knew he wouldn't like everyone in the Falkirk Clan or they him, but he'd manage. He always did.

"I want you to stay in touch." He told her, his hands coming up to cradle her face gently. "And I won't be a stranger, if I've permission to come?" It wouldn't do to presume a welcome now that they'd been reminded his Jewel was more than just a pretty rock. But it this was the last thing he'd do here...

Niall had fought the impulse more than once over their acquaintance, but now he gave in and bent to take Epona's lips with his own. The Warlord kissed her with tenderness, throttling down the rising heat in himself to keep it gentle and sweet. This wasn't about the indulgence of passion: it was care, friendship, sorrow, joy... and love.

Offline Epona Corcoran

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Re: Tha Scottish Play: Last Call
« Reply #9 on: Apr 24, 16, 12:25:24 PM »

Autumn, 190 AP, The bell tower at the Hammer and Anvil

Epona had not lived so long on the streets, at such a young age, to ignore shifts. Shifts in crowds of people, shifts in the weather. Always, it was the larger, more encompassing shifts that portended danger and change. Just such a paradigm shift took place in Niall. One moment he was calmly discussing his new job, in security but not apparently in defense, and the next a wave of emotion crested across his face. It was too deep, and too complex to easily read or understood. Guilt, of course; how could he not feel guilt, when being forced to leave his friends? He'd been so very lost, when he came to her. Something almost like fear, though that, too seemed logical. Hope, maybe? A deeper realization and purpose, she thought. But before she could finish analyzing that expression, the warm smile that accompanied any mention of his new Queen erased the deeper truths from her perception.

Much as Niall would soon be erased from Epona's daily life. It was a disturbingly painful thought. Something in Niall's presence warmed and reassured her. His growth from hopeless wanderer to confident leading man had intrigued and delighted her far beyond the professional relationship and even warm friendship that she could claim. She nodded acceptance to his painting and image of the Falkirk Clan as a Chorus, and it was the example that most made sense to her. They would have their public faces, and their private; their director, and their orchestra. She supposed the court took the stage and the clan the orchestra box, but that as in any solid troupe most of the players would cross back and forth depending upon the needs of the show. Her expression eased to a half-smile and she hugged him, briefly. He had a gift with words, and a keen mind that saw to the heart of things.

She'd miss that. Niall's unending font of knowledge, the way he answered Epona's questions without contempt for her own ignorance. The insight pained her, as so much of this situation did. She trembled as his hands cupped her face. Shook, like a girl on her first date. I want you to stay in touch, he said.

Epona had meant to answer Niall. Meant to tell him he was always welcome, in any capacity. Only when he asked for permission to return did she realize that her every entreaty for his return had assumed he'd be coming back to stay. To work here again, and perform; she had signally failed to assure him of a more personal invitation. Of his general welcome in her house, regardless of his new position. She, the master of breath control, of speech and breathing, who taught those techniques to her troupe, could not find the air to speak.

She nodded, no more than a tiny, almost pained sound escaping as Niall leaned in and captured her trembling mouth for a kiss. Her hand on his arm tightened, and her body, so politely holding its own weight until now, melted against him as her poise failed her and her whole soul yearned into his kiss. Epona had come here, hoping for just this moment; had meant to ask for a kiss if he didn't offer it. The Landen woman understood, better than most, how impossible it would be to hope for more than a single kiss, yet her soul took wing and she let hopeless hope and impossible dream alike bleed into her kiss.

It was anything but a polished, or practiced kiss. Epona hadn't half the experience a woman of her age amongst the blood would have; vastly less. Since years before Niall had known her, Epona's social life had been limited to working lunches and stage kisses. Between that and the powerful emotion of the moment, there was an honesty and raw sensuality to the kiss impossible to feign. 

And she made no attempt to hide it.

Come what may, Epona would have this one, honest moment with her frog prince.

Offline Niall Burne

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Re: Tha Scottish Play: Last Call
« Reply #10 on: May 28, 16, 10:38:34 AM »
Needless to say, Niall has seen many kisses as a healthy Blood male: polished and passionate and artful enough to rouse even the coldest man's blood to flame. Only once had he been asked to oversee a Virgin Night, for a childhood friend, and Epona's kiss reminded him strongly of that singular experience. Her kiss was full of feeling but short on technique, something Niall was happy to mend as he drew back slightly for a breath and went back for a second kiss.

This time Niall took control, using his greater experience to guide the woman in his arms. He urged her to sweet, gentle kisses, sipping at one another's mouths as a hummingbird does the nectar of a flower. He introduced her to longer, more thorough kisses, pouring emotion into the sole physical connection of flesh as though seeking to meld them into one being. And, once her body signaled comfort with that, he taught her how to add the caress of a tongue to provoke greater sensation from the experience.

Something in him purred with pleasure that she trusted her weight and body to him like this, to hold and protect while she was aroused and vulnerable. He let his hands roam idly across her back and shoulders as they traded kisses, gentle touches and longer caresses as he instinctively sought to mimic the contact of their mouths with the rest of their bodies. It wasn't until they slid over her finely-shaped ass that their activity truly registered with the warlord and his widened with dismay and a bit of worry as he fought back the fog of arousal for the first time.

"Enough!" Niall growled, gently but firmly gripping her arms to set her back from him. His breathing was harsh and his muscles tense as he fought for control. "I am sorry, Epona. I'm sure you didn't come up here to be jumped like that. I should know better." Meet one Highland Clan, and he turns as uncivilized as they. Epona deserved better than some impromptu fumbling in a half-ruined tower. She ought to have wine and roses and the sweetest of music; have her beautiful features bathed in candlelight and soft sheets to cry her pleasure upon as Niall drove her to that brink again and again. For a moment, he longed more than anything to see her expression as she shattered and know that he'd been the first and only to give that to her.

Such thoughts were not helping his tenuous self-control. That was the thing with feelings. On the stage, they were his to command: to summon and send away with all casual arrogance of a child certain the world revolved around them. But emotional defenses built by years of denial and repression had already been solidly cracked by the vivacious Queen who thought nothing of claiming a nobody actor as one of her own, and now their remains were washed away in the flood of care and concern from a trembling Landen woman, whose touch was all the more powerful for her lack of knowledge of its effect.

Mother Night, was he screwed. But what else was new? At least this time, he was starting to suspect both events would be the best thing that ever happened to him

Offline Epona Corcoran

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Re: Tha Scottish Play: Last Call
« Reply #11 on: May 31, 16, 03:42:39 PM »
Autumn, 190 AP, The bell tower at the Hammer and Anvil

Epona Corcoran was painfully aware of every strained breath, the icy night air along her cheeks and ears, the searing heat from the hard planes of Niall's body, and the powerful feel of his lips as they savored hers. Her senses were dilated, to an incredible awareness of the slightest touch or movement. Her heart pounded erratically, as if seeking to leap out of her chest. Her left hand danced across his powerful, muscled arm, exploring until her fingers at last trailed along the warm, naked skin of his collarbone. They trembled, despite herself, even as her fingertips sought to brush feather-light, experimental touches over the warm skin of his throat and cheek. Her right arm she maneuvered out from between them, slipping it around his waist and gripping his shirt to help support it's weight. Hoping the grip could ease her spinning head, or the way the world seemed to tilt with each breath, or force her legs to bear her weight. Delight lanced through her, as well as a profoundly unexpected, quite earthy desire. She had anticipated breathlessness, and at most a feather light, hesitant brush of lips. She had not expected to fall helplessly under his spell, nor the waves of heat and terror alternately burning through her senses or freezing her utterly.

Niall broke the kiss for a moment, though Epona barely had time to catch her breath before he once more brushed her lips with his and his hands slid from the careful cradling of her face to caress her back. Her whole body shook, despite resting against his strength, and her knees buckled as he demonstrated without words what a kiss ought to be. She felt as if he kissed not merely her body, but her soul; a yearning and need in each melding of their mouths that would not be denied. It was as if he read the secrets of her heart in each touch, and she surrendered to that fierce emotion, so counter to the gentle, yearning way he touched her. How could something so tender provoke feelings so fierce? She hated the moments she tried to breathe, because she could not force the muscles in her diaphragm to relax, could not possibly get enough air. Yet the desire to feel his lips upon hers, to learn how to return the sweet, lingering touches and longer, aching kisses was greater than her need to live.

Soft, yearning whimpers escaped her throat. Only whimpers, because Epona could not breathe, could not stand on her own, could not think sufficiently to form words even if the former two facts had not been not true. She froze altogether the first time his tongue brushed her lips, entreating her to deeper passion. She yielded slowly, her stiff body softening once more in wonder and delight, her hands tightening against him. Nothing, ever, had quite prepared her for how she felt just then. Nothing could have. Each sweet, tender touch was savored and lingered over; each experience explored fully, until she dared to brush his lips with her own tongue, to taste the spicy, heady and dangerous man who moved her so profoundly. His warm, slowly exploring hands on her back slid lower still but she was filled with reckless confidence and the burning need to explore which his mouth evoked.

A soft, passionately baffled, "Niall?" was the first coherent world that escaped after he broke their kiss. Epona shivered, and struggled for air. She was both deeply chilled and profoundly overheated. They weren't kissing; why could she still not breathe? Her daydreams of such a moment had not included weak knees, dizziness, swollen lips or eyes so dilated she could not readily focus on his face. Of course neither had they included the lingering, tingling sensation of his tongue, as if it even yet trailed over her lips, or the incredible, spicy taste he left in her mouth. Her knees threatened to collapse on her again, and her grip on his back tightened despite the pain in her right arm. Slowly she became aware of Niall's firm grip on her, the incredible tension in his arms as he held her away from him. It was as if he dared not relax for even a moment, lest something terrible happen.

Epona had been told, often, that the blood were passionate. That their love of violence was an outlet for their volatile and bestial nature. Until this moment, she had not readily considered that they might be excessively motivated in other areas, too. But the dangerous tension in Niall's arms, the low growl in his voice told her that he was under extreme pressure of some sort, anyway. She was a lovely young woman, groomed for stage, with a dancer's body, but she highly doubted her own skills or charms could put anyone into quite the level of unease that she was sensing from him.

The faint worry, even dismay in Niall's face brought a breathless laugh; of all the thousands of situations Epona had seen him in, dismay had almost never painted his features. Her left hand brushed over the sharp, smooth planes of his face, memorizing them for her. There were tiny, structural differences between Blood and Landen, leaving the Blood somehow more intense, more feral, but also more purely whatever emotion burdened them. She herself, the Ladnen, was the one who felt less solid, less real. It was as if he was one of the ancient's Ideals made flesh, and what felt she merely a shadow of reality. She would have to draw him, later; try to capture the mystery and magnetism of him, the deeper reality he brought to every moment. The growl in his voice was equally as foreign to the Niall she knew as his dismay.

Epona angled her head, studying Niall, distressed at his apology. Her own eyes were dilated black, yet wild with delight; her body alternately shook, and softened. Her heart was racing uncontrollably, and an incredible, heady sensation ran from the very tips of her fingers to her toes. "No, Niall. Don't apologize. Not for a kiss. Never for that." Her finely trained soprano  lacked the control she was known for, softly breathless and utterly raw. "I came here ... For you." She shook her head, trying to order her thoughts, to soothe him, bring him back from that intensity of emotion that eclipsed anything she had ever seen from him. "But also for me. To ask for a kiss goodbye, before you left. I fear I will never see you again, and I couldn't let you go without at least that." Her fingers dared to brush his lips, feeling that heady heat and power that simmered beneath his skin. "I'm not making sense. I needed to be sure you were alright. That it was your choice, to leave." Her smile faltered, the deep uncertainty and anticipated loneliness that has been whisked away by Niall's kiss, crept back into her eyes.

Epona's hand left Niall's face to adjust his grip on her wounded right arm. She didn't want him to let go; she just wanted to ease the pain. As the heady wildness of his kiss eased, her breathing steadied, a little. Sort of. But she felt no less light headed. "I didn't really think you would kiss me. Is it always that hard to breathe? Why are you so ... Did I upset you? That was not like anything I expected." She smiled uncertainly, ethereal and sweet. "Now you are a transformed, and off to save the world, like in the stories." She allowed a few more moments to pass, for him to speak if he desired, before recalling what he had said, before he kissed her.

"People often promise to stay in touch, to visit. Yet they rarely do so. If you wish, I will write to you. Once you are there, in your new life, my letters might be an unwelcome reminder of the past. We will inevitably seem less real to you." She nodded slowly, unable to meet his gaze. Her left hand toyed with a button on his shirt, worrying it half to death, as she remembered other, less fraught farewells. One thing theatre folks understood was goodbye, and just how very permanent it could be. "You are welcome here. To visit, or to stay. I want you to come. But only if your heart calls you home. Not for duty, or reason. Not even for a promise." She dared to meet his gaze then, to see if he understood.

Offline Niall Burne

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Re: Tha Scottish Play: Last Call
« Reply #12 on: Jun 30, 16, 06:32:44 PM »
<<Epona angled her head, studying Niall, distressed at his apology. Her own eyes were dilated black, yet wild with delight; her body alternately shook, and softened. Her heart was racing uncontrollably, and an incredible, heady sensation ran from the very tips of her fingers to her toes. "No, Niall. Don't apologize. Not for a kiss. Never for that." Her finely trained soprano  lacked the control she was known for, softly breathless and utterly raw. "I came here ... For you." She shook her head, trying to order her thoughts, to soothe him, bring him back from that intensity of emotion that eclipsed anything she had ever seen from him. "But also for me. To ask for a kiss goodbye, before you left. I fear I will never see you again, and I couldn't let you go without at least that." Her fingers dared to brush his lips, feeling that heady heat and power that simmered beneath his skin. "I'm not making sense. I needed to be sure you were alright. That it was your choice, to leave." Her smile faltered, the deep uncertainty and anticipated loneliness that has been whisked away by Niall's kiss, crept back into her eyes.
Epona's hand left Niall's face to adjust his grip on her wounded right arm. She didn't want him to let go; she just wanted to ease the pain. As the heady wildness of his kiss eased, her breathing steadied, a little. Sort of. But she felt no less light headed. "I didn't really think you would kiss me. Is it always that hard to breathe? Why are you so ... Did I upset you? That was not like anything I expected." She smiled uncertainly, ethereal and sweet. "Now you are a transformed, and off to save the world, like in the stories." She allowed a few more moments to pass, for him to speak if he desired, before recalling what he had said, before he kissed her.>>

“You didn’t upset me.” Niall quickly reassured her, letting her adjust his grip as she desired. It had been a long time since he’d required gentleness with a woman and the last thing he wanted was to hurt her with accidental rough handling. “But the fact that you didn’t know what to expect is why I had to stop. I want- oh, I want to do so very many things to you, Epona. With you. Now that I can count myself worthy of them. But you aren’t ready for half of them yet, and I don’t want to scare you by pushing too much, too fast. Especially in a broken-down bell tower.” Because he couldn’t resist, he dipped down to steal another kiss from those sweet lips. His hands remained where she placed them this time, however, as a reminder to himself of his resolve.

<<"People often promise to stay in touch, to visit. Yet they rarely do so. If you wish, I will write to you. Once you are there, in your new life, my letters might be an unwelcome reminder of the past. We will inevitably seem less real to you." She nodded slowly, unable to meet his gaze. Her left hand toyed with a button on his shirt, worrying it half to death, as she remembered other, less fraught farewells. One thing theatre folks understood was goodbye, and just how very permanent it could be. "You are welcome here. To visit, or to stay. I want you to come. But only if your heart calls you home. Not for duty, or reason. Not even for a promise." She dared to meet his gaze then, to see if he understood.>>

Niall was silent for a few moments, gathering his thoughts.  “I chose to go.” He answered her at last. “I know it doesn’t seem like I had a choice from the outside, and I’ll never be able to explain it so you could feel it like I do. But I could have refused to go with her and that whole bumptious Clan of hers. Refusing what the Darkness had given me would have cost me more than going will, but I could have. There will be dark times to come. By going with my Queen, the holder of one part of my soul, I’ll have to see the woman who broke me. My family, my Jewel, other things I’ll never get back. I’ve learned to treasure the good things in my life as I’ve never done before.”

“And this theater?  Is home. It’s the only part of my past worth remembering. If you would have me, I will gladly draw on your warmth, shelter and support as a bulwark against all the ugliness I will be facing after it.” Now that the Warlord had spoken his heart, he summoned up an impish smile for her. “Besides, I’d like to continue exploring some of those activities with you I don’t feel suitable for a bell tower. If you’re amiable to that?”


Offline Epona Corcoran

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Re: Tha Scottish Play: Last Call
« Reply #13 on: Jul 01, 16, 01:39:40 AM »
Autumn, 190 AP, The bell tower at the Hammer and Anvil

Epona worked on breathing, on slowing her heartbeat. Niall let her adjust his hand, and she tentatively allowed her fingers to brush over the warm skin of his arm, tracing the hard planes of his muscles. when Niall assured her she had not upset him, the hard knott in her stomach relaxed. the butterflies failed to settle, however. Her eyes were wide, and liquid with wonder and delight; a smile curved her lips, amazed, shy and very, very pleased when he confessed to desiring her in truth, and not merely for a goodbye kiss. His third kiss was met with soft, delighted wonder, her lips this time knowing how to part, how to respond, even if her nose did not quite stay out of the way. She trembled in his arms, and a strangled sigh accompanied the break of his kiss this time. She was counting, though. Quite determinedly. He would likely come to his senses when surrounded by all those wild Blood; she didn't want to forget a single kiss, look or touch.

She waited patiently, while Niall collected his thoughts, though her unwounded, left hand continued its tentative exploration, feather light brushes along his shirt, while her right hand worried at his button. She listened, intently, as he spoke of what going would cost him. She searched his eyes, and went very still as he spoke of being Broken.

It was in the lore; in the stories. Loosing the Darkness-given Jewels robbed a Blood of much of their power, and often their sanity. But more than the stories, Epona had helped put Niall back together again. The look of horror that ghosted over her face as he confessed to needing to face the person who had hurt him so was completely genuine. Her arm stole around his neck and she hugged him fiercely. She could not fathom it, this thing between the strange, Highland Queen and her Niall. could not understand what would drive his Queen to hurt him so, to risk the one Jewel he yet retained, nor could she decipher what bond of loyalty caused Niall to follow.

Epona only knew that she couldn't argue with it, or reason with it. He was utterly committed to this seemingly-suicidal course. She hurt, for all that he had lost; she had never asked. She did not pry into what desperate betrayal of fate left the broken and hurting at her door. She only picked them up, dusted them off, and showed them a new way to live. "I am so sorry, Niall. for all that you have lost. And so proud of all that you have gained, have leaned since you came here." Her voice was as soft as her touches had been. "Is there anything I can do to help you with what you must face? Anyway I can protect you?" It was ludicrous, really. How could she help him? She could not even keep a Blood Prince from hurting her; how could she keep the Territory Queen from harming Niall further?

Niall's words, then told her how to help him. To protect this place that he, too, considered home. The people who were his family. Her hand cupped his cheek, gently. "You will always have a home here, Niall Burne." She realized, slowly, that the gentle, sweet man she knew would need times of rest and respite, away from the violent, cruel world of the Blood. "Shelter here, when your soul needs to be reminded of joy." Because he had learnt joy, and self respect, here. Maybe he'd never before been allowed to accomplish things that weren't based on violence.

He turned on a heartbeat, with that flawless comedic timing of his, and flashed her his most impish, wicked smile. "Where do you recommend such ...activities, Sir, if not a bell tower?" Because if there was one universal advantage to a bell tower, it was a degree of solitude hard to find in the theatre. She stood on tiptoe, and whispered shyly, quietly, with no intention of being provocative, "I am amiable to our continued explorations." And, admittedly, breathing better. Though in truth she wasn't looking forward to walking down all of those stairs with her knees still so weak.

Offline Epona Corcoran

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Re: Tha Scottish Play: Last Call
« Reply #14 on: Nov 01, 18, 01:45:40 AM »
They lingered in that tall tower, sharing soft touches even more than stolen kisses. It was beautiful, magical, and Epona entirely forgot to ward her heart. She knew Niall; the new part of him, Lord Niall, was still a mystery to her. If the stories were to be believed, he would always remain somewhat beyond her ken. But his voice, she knew. His eyes. The gentle way he warded her, and how he cared for the theatre, here. It was all twined together, in him. She wasn’t going to let it go away, or take away his comfort.

There were things you could change, and those you couldn’t.

Gently, they talked. The upcoming production. The crazy Falkirk Clan, especially the talented young Prince who wanted so badly to have his play performed. Even the scout with the startlingly beautifully singing voice. The shop-talk seemed to ease Niall, for it showed him that his loyalties did not have to be divided. In fact, as she thought about it, it seemd good to her that Niall might win the ear of this Queen at need. After all, if someone did’nt check young Padean, he was likely to cause havoc to her theatre.

Epona was good at reading people; understood the subtle play of tension in arms and voice, and realized suddenly that Niall needed some time alone. Gently, she extracted herself from his embrace, and whispered of duties she must attend to. He did not protest over much, or offer to come with her, so she knew she’d guessed correctly. He needed some time, that was all.  For he had more people and places to bid farewell to than her alone. He was well loved, and would be sorely missed.

She moved quietly through the theatre, quiet now as it so rarely was. Usually, no matter the time or day, some young thespian was here practicing. Some theatres discouraged it, but not Epona. They were all teachers and students to each other; any time the theater wasn’t being used for offical business, the stage was open for her people. Arthfael kept a sign up sheet, and had his men patrol regularly, for everyone’s safety. But here, at this moment, all was still and quiet, as if the theatre, too, mourned the loss of Niall Burn.

(End)