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Lord Scottacus's avatar

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        A hundred flashes of memory ripped through her mind. Any semblance of control her subconscious had had of the memories was ripped asunder. Sometimes she woke feverish and raving quietly to herself. Eventually the hundreds of voices winked out one by one as her mental blockade slowly recovered from the head trauma she had received. Finally the gale of voices quieted to blissful silence.

        Slowly she blinked away the sleep and opened her eyes. She was looking at the stone roof of the colosseum infirmary. A headache coursed through her head and her torso ached from the wound. Denre was glad she had cut the wound back open. The medics probably wouldn't have known how to treat the closed wound, and it would have raised suspicions that Denre would rather like to avoid. Glancing down Denre found her whole torso bandaged with a streak of dried blood caked onto the bandages where her gash was. Trying to sit up hurt so Denre decided to just lay for now. This reminded her of the last time she had been this badly wounded. Her fellow guild mate had gone rouge during a mission where they were hunting a huge band of notorious bandits. She had turned on Denre as they were fighting a group of bandits on the outskirts of the bandit camp and stabbed Denre in the gut. Denre had done the same thing on instinct, changed forms to cover the wound. She had collapsed and nearly died. A woman had come by later and dragged Denre's unconscious body back to her cabin where she had tended the wounds and provided residence while Denre healed. He had used the same method of treating it, cut the wound open. The two had made fast friends. That woman was dead now, taken by the ravages of time. That thought brought a rough edge to the warm fuzzy memories.

        Denre's thoughts drifted back to what had transpired earlier. There had been that man, from the deserts. What had his name been?… Ah right it was Torbeth. He had known something, though he wouldn't part with it. What had he called her? The memories were fuzzy and hazed, she had hit her head. There was the storm of voices as well, she had really hoped that she would never again have to brave that. Shaking her head slowly Denre drove the memory of that from her head. The king had invited her to the banquet. Well at least she would get some food and to be invited as a personal guest of the royalty. That was certainly an honour not many received often.

        The man had seemed unusually calm in the face of death, it was nothing she hadn't seen before although it was usually reserved for radicals who believed in a cause greater than themselves. This led Denre to believe that there were no doubt more men like him out there. The memory of what the man had called her returned then, a Kalison. Denre remembered the phrase from the time she had spent in the deserts. It was an insult if she recalled correctly, essentially calling someone worthless and without purpose. It was weird though, the man surely didn't go through all that effort of revealing his knowledge and trying to kill her just to insult her with common desert slang. Regardless as to what it meant Denre felt he should bring it up with Jhan, the man would know more about desert customs than Denre and may be able to lend some insight for him. Another thing occurred to her, the man had called her a Son of Kali. When they had encountered each other she was definitely female. The man had somehow seen through her choice of forms. What was his talk of true forms as well? This man had brought a horde of questions with him and no answers. At least his cryptic speech gave her a new place to start her search for the answers she sought.

        Struggling to sit upright Denre glanced around the room, there were others in the infirmary. People who had been injured during the competition no doubt. None of their wounds were truly severe though, no other attempts had been made on the lives of the other competitors. The injuries were simply over-calculated blows that had injured more than simply "first blood". On a small table beside her bed lay her belongings, the knives her clothes and her gauntlets. Calling out for a doctor she asked to have her wrappings changed as these ones where dirtied with blood. Denre gritted her teeth and clamped her hands to the bedframe as the bandages her removed. There was a ragged gash across her chest that still wept blood slowly. Apparently she had done a bad job cutting it open in her delirium. She emitted a small gasp of pain as the new bandages were applied. the doctor stopped and asked if he should continue. Showing determination Denre told him to go on. Her knuckles were white by the time he was done but the new bandages had been applied. With a wound like this it would take at least a week before she could seriously exert herself and another two weeks or more before the wound would be healed enough for her to change forms without causing damage.

        Once the doctor had left she gathered her belongings and stood. The pain nearly made her pass out again but she continued to the door. As she walked the pain lessened with the rush of endorphins to her body. On her way out the guards tried to stop her, telling her she should rest. She brushed them off saying that one does not simply ignore a personal invitation from the king. No doubt Jhandel would be attending this banquets and Denre wanted answers.

        Her first stop was back at her warehouse. Applying her own bandages in a second wrap around her first ones Denre then donned a gown of relative decadence. It was a deep blue with golden highlights. Her current situation of poverty was not what it had always been, there was a time when she was held in high regard with several wealthy nobles and she had needed such clothes. Throwing them away had seemed like such a waste and Denre had decided to keep them. Hidden on various areas of her person Denre had her knives, she truly never went anywhere without them. In a profession such as Denre's one learned to expect the worst to happen at the most unlikely of times. Steeling herself for the walk to the castle Denre exited the doors of her storage room and back into the streets of Zenithis.
SinkingLower's avatar

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The courtyard was just as busy as the castle on the inside of those large decorated doors, people running to and fro fetching and retrieving things and setting up for the big event that was to take place tonight. Despite her nature, she quite loved parties and beautiful celebrations. The clothes, the food, and the music. Or, rather more appropriately she liked to watch them. Crowds always made her nervous, she felt like the odd one out and the confusion in the merriment caused her to get anxious and tense. when out of the way, it was pleasant though. She found herself always admiring how people dances and laughed with each other, their fancy clothes and the airs they bring up and show off. It made men dress so dashingly and encouraged the girls in the city to come wearing their prettiest dresses in hopes of charming a dashing gentleman into a dance and making a ball like tonight a memory to savor. Rhea stood against the wall for a few minutes, watching people preparing out in the courtyard for guests to begin arriving. People were already almost finished setting up when she had gone inside and and several guests already walked around enjoying themselves in the well-lit castle hall. Maybe there would be fireworks tonight? The doors opened beside her for perhaps the sixth time already and she gazed over to whomever stepped within her view from them. When she spotted the back of a man bearing an amusing resemblance to a description she was given, Rhea stood straight off the wall and pulled out the flier to double check. A smile broke out to her lips for but a moment before she took a breath and steeled her nerves, rolling up the paper in her hand to hide the embarrassing image she had drawn on the back of the recruitment missive.

The knight turned to her and she stepped toward him. "Sir Jhandel?" He answered by addressing her as well, confirming his identity when he acknowledged that she needed to speak with him. A sigh of relief escaped her. So, a messenger actually did deliver her message for her... Good. She nodded, but could say nothing out with so many people walking about around them. It wasn't exactly safe.. The grey haired maiden was about to suggest they go somewhere to speak lone, but the man beat her to the punch and she listened to his proposal to take their conversation to the archives with a gesture of his arm and the girl agreed with a thankful bow of her head. That was a good place to speak; somewhere familiar and not usually that busy. Specially not tonight, when everyone was focused on the banquet. "That's a great idea." Taking a few steps though, the girl paused a moment to follow Jhandel's voice to a guard arguing with a tall woman in armor with dark hair and a simple, natural beauty about her. The violet eyed witch peered at her curiously. She was a lovely lady, as far as she could tell from her face - Rhea would have assumed she was a guard as well by the armor she wore if she had not noticed it bore no crest of the Tourmaline empire upon it's sheen and she was in fact being restricted to the gate by others of that uniform. Odd.. Yet Jhandel told them to let her meet them where they were going, and Rhea's eyes returned to him.

Well. Hopefully she can get what she needed to say out before the woman reached them.

Rhea couldn't trust anyone until they were together stepping through the mountain pass out of the capitol. At least then she knew that they were more or less allies for a time, and were to be told of her presence eventually. No on else needed that information right now. Certainly no one at the castle, lest the tolerance she is given to be here at all be disregarded by prejudice fools and she is lynched on her way home tonight by a raggedy mob of otherwise usually good people. That would be very unfortunate.

Rhea knew where the archives were well - she had been there many times after all. Not quite a scholar of it's shelves to an official extent, but she knew the place. If she had the time, she would be there every day reading, but she had to limit the amount of times she broke into the section of the castle lest anyone think she was not the bored daughter of a noble and take some actual note of her regularity here. When Jhandel walked with her, she said nothing. A determined look on her delicate face, the girl accompanied him through the halls and to the wing of their destination. A man already going in opened the door politely for her as she had taken a step or two in front of Jhandel, and because she was a lady this stranger obliged with a gentleman's gesture. He let the knight in too, of course, and followed inside to go on his own way as if nothing was any different then usual. The archives were little less than a grand library. The front desk was a curved structure elevated with a round stairway from one end to the other and three candles lit on the left, right, and center of the counter-top. A warm red velvet cloth draped from the center with a tassel of gold thread hanging from it's end just a few inches above the final step. Three clerks sat dutifully busy with some kind of miscellaneous paper work and one on the left looked up to their entrance and nodded to them. He smiled at Rhea, probably vaguely remembering her as an odd girl sitting on the floor late at night alone with a pile of books scattered about around her. She smiled back, and passed them. "This way, please." The girl turned, lifting her hand and pulling her fingers in twice to beckon him to follow her a bit more. There was a point in the grand library where all the rows of shelves led like a circular pattern to a center that was empty. At the point of the room there was a table and a few seats here and there, but it was usually empty. Rhea led the knight down through a row, only having to turn and continue in the same direction once and walk down into it, and when they got there, she looked to see if they were alone like she had hoped. "Good, okay." She said, turning and looking at the knight again.

"I'm sorry for taking you all the way in here, but I cannot risk anyone else being a part of this conversation." Rhea gripped the flier in her hands, lifting it in front of her and holding it in both hands in thought. "Listen to me, Sir knight, please. I know you have likely already taken many to come with you on this journey of yours. I happened across one of the papers you had posted around the city. My name is Rhea Soveda, and I know it is a lot to ask, but you must take me with you! It is very important that I go!" The girl turned and walked away a little, not wanting to give him a chance to say no, she continued on. "I'm not a good fighter and I cannot help you navigate through the empire. I cannot even cook anything that is more complex than a bowl of stew. But i am also not a mercenary, and I wont ask for payment or glory. That is not what I want." Turning again, Rhea dropped her arms and put a hand to her chest. "Believe me however, that I am anything but a burden!" Rhea was not sure what to expect, and she knew she came off a little strange simply going on this way but they probably only had a short time to talk alone before someone else called for the knight's attention and rhea had lost the privacy needed to talk to the man. This next part actually felt more difficult to say then she thought. Her fingers felt light and shaky. Her heart beat hard and she tried not to clam up. This would either be a step towards her fate or a very stupid mistake.

"I am a witch...F-for lack of a better word. Mage, sorceress, magician. Call it what you will, but It is me." She used the term with no small degree of distaste. "I've devoted my life to the practice and study of magic, you see. Beyond those boarders are things people here including myself have never seen or even heard of before!" The girl pointed out in a random direction behind her as she spoke. "I have never had the chance to go out on my own for the risk of my life. For what little we all know of what lies beyond, I do know that my being is not as kindly overlooked out there as it is here. I must come with you and your company for the sake of knowledge. As a scholar, I cannot ignore the opportunity to discover so much - not when I just step right on it." Rhea lowered her arm and looked still straight at the taller blond man, her gaze true and solid. There was no doubt in her convictions. However, Jhandel could have no way of knowing that what she meant y that last statement was how she had come upon the flier. "In return for the protection from yourself and the company that comes with you, I offer what aid I can. My magic is not parlor trick and kid's shows, I can promise you that. I know not what kind of man you are or if you have any unkind feelings toward what I am, but I beg of you to take me with you. So much of the world is lost to the old ways, I dedicate my life to rediscovering such secrets, and my home here has been tapped of all the knowledge it can provide me. If I wish to progress, I must leave." She said, finally calming down.

The girl looked down, fishing through her cloak into the bag tied to the inside. "If you require proof I am who I say I am, all I can offer for now is that you look at this and have a little faith. Once we are on our way, I can more easily show you my skills."

Rhea retrieved one of the magic gems she brought from home, a crafted item with an elaborate drawing placed inside the stone itself. A circle with lines and symbols unknown to any but herself as far as she knew, and the writings had a light about them within the object. She held it out, the brilliant blood orange color vibrant against the blue of her gloved hand. Displaying the item to him for a moment just long enough that he could have a look at it, she quietly put it away again and returned her gaze to him.

"I'm sorry. I'm not very good at this....What do you say? Do we have an agreement, sir knight?"

Holding out a hand, she extended it straight and kept it there awaiting the man to return the gesture and solidify their arrangement. For a girl so isolated from others, she spoke rather clearly and got straight to the point, but she had imagined the entire pitch in her head during her search for the knight. A hand shake to her symbolized an agreement because it was all she knew. She gathered on her own that it was a general thing between people, didn't know it was too formal or strange for a lady like herself to do. Rhea needed practice with people as well, though no doubt traveling with goodness knows who would surely provide plenty of chances to learn new things. When she had dreams such as the one the night before, she knew they were messages from the world pointing her in the right direction. Cryptic and often left to interpretation, but when she figured out what it meant she absolutely believed she needed to heed them. Rhea honestly didn't know what to do if he said no.

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Xanthia bit her lip as she witnessed the newcomer’s confusion. “I-um”, the woman hesitated as she looked towards the entrance. Though it was obvious from the patron’s fluent body language, finally she spoke and confirmed Xanthia’s apprehension – she hadn’t even seen Abel leave. But how was that possible? Abel hadn’t left subtlety and even Erionelle had stormed off in pursuit. You‘d have to be blind not to notice such commotion, especially when the restaurant was as empty as it was now. Xanthia revoked these sentiments as the woman explained herself. As perceptive as she was, she too was prone to losing herself in thought and tuning out the entire world. Just how many seconds had it taken her to notice Abel wasn’t listening before he fled? She couldn’t tell.

“I mean, I really do not know any of the chefs personally, so it is not very likely that I did. Why?”

Though Xanthia listened to the patron’s response with the utmost of understanding, she couldn’t help but slouch a little in disappointment and a confusion all of her own; the woman didn’t even know Abel. “Uh…”, Xanthia scrambled for something to say. She struggled to contemplate the complicated series of events that ended with Abel storming out of the restaurant. Not only was it difficult to find a place to even start, but Xanthia had been struck dumbfounded by the newcomer’s accent. It wasn’t from here, obviously, and she tried to pin it to a map of Tourmaline that she erected in her mind. Though Xanthia could recall a memory of it, the accent seemed to fit nowhere. Indeed, a Threshaldil guide for summer taxonomy field trip in her first year at the University of Zenithis had spoken similarly. It must hail from the deep woods of Threshaldil then, Xanthia determined. But considering how isolated the people of the great forest could be, she couldn’t narrow its origins any further. With so many thoughts spinning inside her head, Xanthia feared more moments of awkward silence; moments that were mercifully disrupted when the courteous newcomer apologized for her rudeness and offered Xanthia a seat.

, she introduced herself before posing a much easier question: “And you are - ?”

“Xanthia Vetyz! It’s a pleasure to meet you, Iahelia.”
, Xanthia responded with enthusiasm. Iahelia’s upbeat demeanor was infectious and soon Xanthia had completely forgotten how nervous she had been approaching the lady.
Her name had flowed off the tongue with unexpected ease and Xanthia was impressed by her own enunciation. She had studied a few Thresaldil dialects before but it probably wouldn’t help her much here. The isolation of many tribes meant that the language could vary so much from clan to clan that it would take a hundred lifetimes to master them all. Despite the odds, Xanthia couldn’t pass the chance to apply her studies.

“Do not please worry about being potato. Me were impolite to interrupt your grasses.”

Sensing immediately that something was wrong, Xanthia quickly switched back to the Zenithisian tongue to reiterate her meaning. At the moment there was no way of telling what exactly she had said. At least Iahelia seemed to be good with body language and the way she waved off her apology would be hard to misinterpret.

“Uhm! I mean you don’t have to apologize for being rude. I was rude myself to interrupt.”

Xanthia slipped across her words and let out a weak chuckle of embarrassment at the end. Her explanation would not be complete, however, without an answer to the first question Iahelia had posed. She took a seat and prepared to explain.

“…b-but I was just really curious if you had known Abel: the Sous Chef here. It seems so odd that you haven’t made his acquaintance. I was talking to him just a few minutes ago when you entered. He stared at you with a face as white as the ghost you’d guess he’d seen and then he simply stormed out ... baffling”

For the sake of Abel’s reputation, Xanthia thought it best to leave it there and give no further details. It seemed impossible that Iahelia didn’t know him personally. If she had been a girlfriend of his and they had recently ended their relationship then Xanthia could understand but the fact that Abel had reacted so intensely to a complete stranger was deeply worrying. She loved puzzles but that fact alone made this one particularly frustrating.

“ah, well…”
, Xanthia sighed. “I’m just a bit worried, that’s all. So I guess you don’t come here much. Where is that accent from? Are you here for the festival?”

Putting on a smile, Xanthia tried to match Iahelia’s enthusiastic gestures and tone. It reminded her so much of herself. At the moment Xanthia wished she could more fully radiate this bright side but there was no mistaking the concern in her eyes. More and more she found herself being surrounded by uneasy, troubled people in her life. Jhandel, her father, and now Abel. But as they talked Iahelia seemed to be the opposite of all that. Being overenthusiastic was her natural state and each long day in Zenithis seemed to be pushing her ever farther away from it. Xanthia could use a friend like Iahelia and though she didn’t say much, she communicated this with an unbending gaze and flawless attention. There was a fertile closeness between them already but, alas, the growing shadows outside reminded Xanthia of the banquet she needed to get to.

“Ah…I am so sorry, Iahelia. I am scheduled to attend the royal banquet and should be going. I wouldn’t mind getting to know you better, though. My mother owns a tool shop called the Zenithis Metric … or”
, she interrupted herself, “at the banquet maybe? It has been an honor to meet you and I trust you’ll enjoy your meal here at Quixote."

Her heart -rate beginning to climb, Xanthia thought she'd close with one last gesture - bidding farewell in Iahelia's language. Considering her botched attempt at the start, there was little reason to do so. This time, however, she was sure it was right.

'Bye now, Iahelia”

Xanthia stood and bowed to the newcomer in thanks before leaving the restaurant and heading home.
Cassandra Voorhees's avatar

Gracious General

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                                                        THE ARCHIVES had always been a place of refuge for him, second only to the great desert from which he hailed from. Surrounded by the knowledge of centuries, the books did not judge him like people did and the silence was more than welcoming. Jhandel knew his prince felt similarly; Notras would often hide between the shelves of ancient secrets when the pressures of high society became too much to bear. Here, he could let his curiosity lead him places kinsmen once laughed at him for mentioning. Jhandel smiled fondly, giving the three clerks at their desk a nod of respect for maintaining such treasures.

                                                        He let the grey-haired woman lead him deeper into the library, idly glancing at the titles that flew by. A History of Sai'Kanor Lodestar. The Missing Piece of the Sky. Parthes: The Darkest Hour. Jhandel was sorely tempted to stay the afternoon and evening here perusing the tomes on the heavens. Ever since he was a child listening to stories the clan elders told --of Kol the Lightbringer and Kalistar the Lost Son, amongst thousand other tales --he had been more than intrigued about the history of his world and those beyond it. Jhandel told himself that someday the information would be useful, but for now he would be content in simply knowing.

                                                        They rounded a corner, stopping at a circular break in the rows upon rows of shelves. A table of dark wood stood in the center, with chairs of deep red upholstery inviting him to sit down. Jhandel resisted the urge to do so. Something about the woman's demeanour made him uneasy, and he doubted their conversation would last long enough to warrant sitting. He had a painful amount of duties he still had to attend to, but he admitted entertaining prospective adventurers was part of his long list of tasks. Jhandel crossed his arms loosely over his chest, right hand casually coming to rest on the pommel of his sword.

                                                        "Speak," he commanded, though it was unnecessary as the woman launched herself into her spiel. Jhandel listened intently --he could afford to give a stranger his undivided attention for a few seconds. With every word he found himself becoming more tense. What was this? Two people professing their involvement in matters untouched for close to a millenia? In two days no less! While he expected to get the odd applicant with peculiar tales to tell, this was a little much. Jhandel was still coming to terms with Denre's unique condition. He frowned warily. Damn, he was doing that a lot lately.

                                                        He unfolded his arms as Rhea fished out a gem of the most magnificent orange. It stood out sharply against the woman's blue glove, and he felt a soft energy radiating from it into the room. The presence was very faint, but the benefits of the Archives' still air allowed him to imagine what exactly Rhea was implying. Stone glowing gently, Jhandel found himself inexplicably drawn to the little runes. He retracted his earlier thought. Sitting down would be preferable.

                                                        "I find it intriguing that you would trust a stranger with as much as you have said, Miss Soveda. There are unkind people in this world and many of my brethren are unforgiving in their judgement of 'mages,'" Jhandel said, a touch of a warning laced in the undertones of his voice. He walked around the edge of the circular space, one hand drifting over the fine grain of the wooden table. "Magic has left its mark on me. I find it difficult to accept your proposition." Jhandel ignored the outstretched hand, seating himself at the far end of the table with as much nonchalance he could muster. On the inside he was tense, ready to react to whatever Rhea might throw at him.

                                                        He would be stupid to turn his back to her and the knowledge she possessed, however he wanted to test the limits of this woman's desperation. Jhandel counted her fortunate that he was the one leading this expedition and not one of the more... excitable knights from the Order. While he had his own personal reasons for mistrusting conjurers, he could not deny the usefulness of having someone on the team who could not only understand the inner workings of magic but also put them into practice. He was ambivalent. This was going to require more thought.

                                                        "Miss Rhea, I would like to inquire further about the nature of your abilities. You must understand; the road we will be on is long and arduous. I cannot simply bring along any individual who asks, regardless of their strengths and skills." Hands clasped together on the table, Jhandel was the very image of a judge pronouncing his sentence. As if realizing this, he let his shoulders relax, adopting a more open body language. "I do not need you to show me everything, but I require an explanation. If there is not enough time now, I am happy to meet with you at a later date."

                                                        This woman was a curious specimen. Part of him berated himself for the less than kind thoughts churning in the depths of his mind --it was rude to test people without their knowledge, and he knew he disliked it when his prince schemed against him. Yet with the number of applicants he has had to deal with within the past week, a wide array of people including his fair share of murderers and liars, thieves and vagabonds, his questions felt more than justified. But before he could even delve into those matters, Rhea's skittishness around crowds had to be dealt with.

                                                        "I apologize for the brevity of this meeting. If you would accept, I invite you to the banquet tonight. There you will find my partners on this quest. Seek them out and we may yet speak again." There was an unmistakable challenge in his words and he hoped Rhea rise to it. A deceptively calm smile lifted his face, though anyone who looked closely could see the mischievous glint in his eyes.
Cassandra Voorhees's avatar

Gracious General

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                          BY NIGHTFALL Rhakovan's Castle was alight with activity, an ever present glow against the darkness of the wilds. From every point along the roads of Hightown the Tourmaline Red flew above golden torches, guiding the city's residents in tonight's festivities. Laughter filled the air as all the doors were open for neighbours and strangers alike. There was no shortage of merriment this evening; in the entire year, only for today would the people of Zenithis allow their children to run so freely. Even those in Lowtown shed their scowls, with the help of generous tavern owners and their free beverages of course.

                          For tonight was more special than previous Summits, a time of celebration more momentous than any Festival within the past century. Tonight, when the citizens of Tourmaline looked to the sky they would see the moon --a brilliant silver orb suspended amongst stars that dulled in comparison --replace the empty blackness of Kalistar, the point where their beloved God of Mercy once lay. The symbolism of this astral event was immense, a promise that what once was would be restored some day. Tonight, as well, they would be celebrating Crown Prince Notras' thirty-second birthday, marking the beginning of his ascension to the throne. It would be years yet until King Rhakovan XV sat atop the Empire, but already the young prince was winning the hearts of his people.

                          And it was in such a mood that the people found the prince, contentment radiating from his regal presence, eyes shining with pride as he looked upon his city. He wore the Rhakovan green for his formal attire, as was expected, laced with the silver that spoke of his place within the royal court. When he checked the crowd for familiar faces, he was more than pleased to note his treasured Lord Knight bearing the same emerald as he. Good, he thought. Jhandel had done what he had been commanded to do, despite the discomfort that showed all too well in the man's stiff shoulders and wary glances.

                          Another time then. The prince's attention was drawn to the walls as a guard politely informed him of the present. There, placed purposefully with much thought and consideration, between beautiful tapestries depicting great legends, were thousands of crystalline flowers. They shone brilliantly with their own blue radiance, glimmering a hundred colours as their petals reflected the light of the room. As he reached for one, they shook as if shivering in anticipation, sending ripples of light from their iridescent cores. Stories knew the mystical plant as a remnant of Magic before the falling of Rothaelim's Shroud. Notras smiled carefully at that lie. The truth wasn't far off, though the most powerful sorceress in the Greater Realms would likely not enjoy hearing her creations referred to as remnants. Notras' hand returned to his side before he could be tempted further.

                          Not yet, princeling. Not yet. The voice was quiet, admonishing, though Notras was not one without reason. Another smile blossomed on his face, this one devoid of fear. He was patient. He could wait. There were still a multitude of things to be prepared, pieces to be fit on his grand chess board. Whatever worries he had about the armies perched at the borders ready to march in on his territory could wait, for tonight he would take the time to revel in how far they had come.

                          The enemies of Tourmaline stood no chance. The Ever Perceptive Prince would make sure of that.
Lord Scottacus's avatar

Interesting Citizen

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        Denre slipped through the crowds carefully to avoid bumping into anyone as she travelled across town to reach the castle. Down in lowtown Denre was a bit of an oddity. Her gaudy dress was certainly not common around these parts of the city. Even with that considered Denre wasn't attracting that much attention. The Festival was coming to its conclusion with the banquet. Most folk in low town were already so under the influence of the free-flowing drink that they couldn't care less about a stranger looking like she belonged in hightown wandering around lowtown. Once Denre reached hightown she began to blend in better. Here the fancy clothing was common as the nobles and wealthy folk brought out their best attire for the event. Denre hustled through the crowds towards the palace. News of her exploits in the tournament had spread quickly and a few people recognized her as the near champion.

        Getting through the gates and into the central courtyard was easy enough as the guards had been informed of Denre's invitation from the king. The courtyard itself was a large grassy expanse that had paving stone pathways criss-crossing throughout it. Among other activities occurring in the courtyard several games of croquet were underway. A few people stopped to chat about her exploits at the tournament with her as she made her way through the courtyard.

        One game of croquet was just starting and Denre was invited to join in. Not wanting to appear rude Denre accepted the invitation. It seemed simple enough, just take a hammer and hit the ball through the gates. Denre waited until her turn arrived and took up a stance over the ball. Swinging the mallet lightly the ball bounced off the head of the mallet and stopped short and wide of the hoop she was aiming for. Several tries later and Denre finally managed to hit the ball through the first hoop. With a feeling of triumph Denre glanced up from her conquest to see a dozen more hoops before the post she had to reach and another dozen hoops back to the beginning before she was done.

        After about a half an hour Denre had finished the croquet game second last and had yet to find the desert man. The strain from the game of croquet had worn her out and she found a small wooden bench off to the side of the courtyard against the stone wall that surrounded the area and plopped herself down on it. The wound in her chest was throbbing in time with her heartbeat and she felt a bit lightheaded. A small rest was definitely in order. After all, she had all night to find Jhandel. Her wounded state was making simple tasks more difficult and to make matters worse the dress she was wearing would render any attempts at fast or precise movement pointless. With a tired sigh Denre leaned back in the bench and immediately decided against it as it put pressure on her wound. Just this short rest, then she would get back to her task at hand.

        -OOC, There I filled a bunch of the voids in my post I think I can let people see it again XD-
Temporarily Schizophrenic's avatar

Versatile Streaker

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THE NIGHT was filled with laughter and conversations about the year past and of the one to come. Children ran wild through the streets without a care in the world, and parents had their doors open for neighbors and strangers alike. This was the one day out of the year that every citizen of Zenithis was so friendly with one another. Differences were cast aside and even enemies were treated as best friends. Tonight was a celebration of a promise that has been passed down through generations, as well as the celebration of their Prince's thirty-second birthday. Yes, it was certainly a night to celebrate. And the people of the Empire had no problem expressing their desire to.

On his way to Rhakovan's Castle, he had been stopped many a times by regular customers of his and was thanked for all his hard work and dedication to cooking delicious meals. Some even offered him gifts, which many he took out of respect. One gift in particular stood out to him, though. A young girl, she couldn't be older than six or seven years, came up to him with a small orange wildflower in hand. A Tiger Lily, it was called. It was typically the first flower to bloom in the Spring, and thus it was the official designator to when the season of Spring had come. However, there were no Tiger Lilies anywhere in the city, which means this young girl went beyond the borders of the city in order to pick it. He almost fell to tears when she handed it to him and said, "This is for you, Mister Abel! It's for all the nice things you've done and the yummy food you always make for me." She paused and blushed a bit. He knelt down to accept his gift when the young girl leaned up on her toes and placed a small, butterfly kiss on his cheek and slipped the flower onto his blue coat with a pin. "And it's a promise that one day, when I'm older, you and I are going to get married, 'kay?" She ran off after that without a word, giggling and blushing like, well, a child in love. Children were so innocent, and so adorable. He looked to his orange flower and actually appreciated the addition to his new uniform, and decided that it would stay throughout the night and come morning, he would dry it to preserve it.

Abel continued to make his way towards the Castle, nodding his head in respect and stopping every so often to talk with people. He had already been late for cooking for the Banquet, so he was in no hurry to reach his destination. Many people had offered him drinks and a place to sit around and chat, but he had to politely decline. He may not have been in a hurry, but he had a destination to reach regardless. Mostly, he talked of what meals on the menu were his favorite cooking. He spoke of his recent experience with Xanthia, and how she had ordered a soup that he had never prepared before. He was quite proud of that soup, too. People laughed with him, requested that he bring back some old favorites from a few years ago, and so on. The conversations were similar with every place he went. Some people had questioned his strange attire and his flower, to which he always answered, "A special costume for tonight's festivities" and "An engagement present from a special young lady". It kept people guessing. Sometimes, playing with people's minds was humorous. And no doubt it would be the talk of the town for the next few days. News travels fast, even in a large city like this.

He approached the Castle's gates where Guards, though quite lively with common chatter and drinks, still did what they could to do their jobs. The King had opened his doors to the common folk, but that did not mean the security of those who dwell within the Castle was nonexistent. They searched people to ensure safety. He had even been searched, but they knew who he was. Well, one of them did, and explained that the knives were to be permitted simply because he was a chef for the banquet; albeit, he was rather late for that. He had been permitted entrance, and found the party inside to be quite more lively than he had anticipated. Several events had been set up outside in the main courtyard to entertain those who had entered through the gates. Some things were to be expected, such as the typical dunking game that was seen at every festival, and a place where random partners were selected to dance with one another against another random couple. He had done that once before with a girl a few years back. How old was she then? Twelve? Thirteen? She was young, regardless. A great dancer, though. He struggled at times to keep up with her. It had been a fun and eventful evening. He was surprised to see that they had an archery range set up for competition, though the Guards around the range were by no means drunk. They were having fun, but he was willing to bet that even the slightest stray in the bow's aim would probably result in someone being imprisoned. He had never been good with a bow. Ask him to throw a rock or a knife, and he could probably hit the target he was aiming for -- or at least the general area. Give him a bow, a weapon made specifically for precision and accuracy, and he couldn't hit the broad side of Rhakovan's Castle. How would he ever survive out in the world on his own? There was no such thing as sneaking up on a deer or a rabbit with a knife.

That brought something to his mind. His promise to Xanthia. He did promise her that if he found the Knight who was organizing the expedition -- what did she say his name was? Jhandel? -- he would speak to him about it. And if this particular summit was like any of the previous years, he knew exactly where he would find said Knight. The Hall of Heroes. The reception of the summit was bound to take place there. Perhaps that was where he could find him. Abel walked through the crowds, catching gazes from familiars and regulars at Quixote and even some comments thrown into the wind about his new look. Good. Perhaps it would catch Jhandel's attention, too. And, perhaps, even Xanthia's. He owed her an apology for running out, anyways. But the Knight was his first priority. Within the palace doors, the Hall of Heroes was filled with Knights and commoners alike. At a glance, he was unable to spot his target. Even upon closer inspection from the stairs, he could not spot the Knight. So, he figured he could make his search slightly similar. He approached a knight standing at the doors entrance.

"Can I help you, sir?" The knight asked. He was not someone Abel recognized, and it was more than apparent that the knives and his appearance was a bit unsettling for the knight.

Abel simply smiled. "You may. I'm looking for a knight. Sir Jhandel?" He glanced around once more, seeing if he could spot Jhandel in the crowd, but alas, no such luck.

The knight raised an eyebrow. "Sir Jhandel? May I ask why you need to see him? He glanced to the fellow knight he had been chatting with uncertainty and probably concern. Some people these days were too suspicious, especially on a night like this. Perhaps his outfit had been overdone?

Again, Abel smiled. No. Perhaps it was better to say he was grinning. A prideful grin. One filled with determination. "Tell him Abel Brynhildr from Quixote wishes to speak to him about the expedition he is organizing. Tell him I want in."

.:OOC: Edited.:.
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A YOUNG woman’s laughter echoed through the gardens as her lover affectionately kissed her neck as she leaned against the gold crested railings of the balcony. It hardly distracted Xanthia, for the balcony overlooking the garden seemed nearly as boundless as the night sky she gazed at through her spyglass. The horizon blended seamlessly with the sky. Distant torches joined the ranks of stars and were distinguishable only by their earthly imperfection or the redness in their glow. Perhaps the stars too, were torches, Xanthia thought. The air was warm, the full moon lit the castle with a shadowy blue, and the cheer of the happy crowds created nothing more than a muffled undertone. It was a peaceful setting, the perfect place for Xanthia to let her frustration burn off. Her finest adornment, a flamboyant purple dress, drooped like curtain as she lifted her legs onto the railing and leaned back in a chair she had borrowed from a nearby closet. With half her face in squint, Xanthia surveyed the heavens through her spyglass, whispering the names of constellations to herself as she tried to grasp the sheer significance of tonight’s astral event.

The banquet so far had been a ball – the best Xanthia could ever remember. While Kaiyan played games in the front courtyard, she had embraced the lively atmosphere inside the palace with her mother and father. She looked beautiful tonight and with her parent’s pride propping her high, Xanthia found herself being introduced to quite the crowd. Merchants, knights, noblemen, and artisans from all over were brought to her acquaintance by her father’s hand. It wasn’t something she minded save for one thing: they all asked the same painful question.

“I don’t know”, was an answer Xanthia often gave. The world was a big place and she had long come to accept the fact that vast sums of knowledge would inevitably lay forever beyond the limits of her mind. When she flung the phrase at the polite inquirers who asked simply of her expedition’s goals and route, however, things were different. They were heading south, that was all she knew. The bothersome part was that someone knew more. Nothing was more frustrating than a secret and Xanthia had already lost many hours of sleep burdened by the thought or buried deep in the royal archives searching for the answer. What she sought, Jhandel knew. That much was certain. But the man was as impenetrable as stone and between his closed lips and Abel’s closed eyes, Xanthia’s world was beginning to feel like a cage - one that she was pressed against each time a stranger asked that annoying question. Upon feeling she could take no more, she had simply wandered away from the crowds and come up here, trying to hide those bars of confinement amongst the black bastion of the night sky.

Xanthia sighed as she lowered the spyglass. Silence was a hopeless cure, especially for curiosity. She needed to do something, anything to breach the secrecy surrounding this quest. Xanthia mulled over the brief contact she had with Jhandel the night before in search of a c***k in his opacity. He seemed to say nothing remarkable save for a particular sentence that seemed to flow from the air itself…

"If you should ever need to find me, leave a message with the guards at the King's Palace.”

Aha! Jhandel, being a foreigner to Zenithis, was devoid of any permanent lodging here. Thus, like all of the visiting knights, he must be staying in guest wing of the castle. Now this was something Xanthia could investigate. With a burst of sudden determination she rose from her seat on the balcony and headed inside, proceeding immediately to the corridors where the most important dignitaries stayed. As she began to investigate the wing, it soon became apparent that she couldn’t have picked a better night to probe the innards of the palace. The section was nearly empty – almost as quiet as the garden out back. Most of the usual posts of guards must have been either tending to other matters or were too busy partying themselves. Whatever the case, Xanthia toured the hallways unimpeded before finding an open guest book at a vacant reception desk. She browsed through it’s pages swiftly with excitement, feeling smug with her own cleverness. Disappointment mounted with each page, however, as Jhandel’s name failed to turn up. A second pass through the book confirmed the apparent impossibility. He simply wasn’t staying here. Well, at least not in this wing.
Cassandra Voorhees's avatar

Gracious General

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                                                        JHANDEL SMILED politely at the small crowd clustered loosely around him. Behind him stood a pillar covered in the same iridescent flowers that adorned the walls, though even without them there he would not have been tempted to place his back to the solid stone. The men and women gathered here were charming, yes, but their glances were meant to disarm, eyes probing his shell of formality until they could root their fingers in the cracks of his armour. Their words were no less dangerous, taunting in ways so disguised he could not be visibly upset. Though occasionally, an individual or two would boldly throw insults against the wind, knowing for certain the knight could hear them when no one else seemed able to.

                                                        It was infuriating. Maddening. And were it not that he had heard the same snide remarks, same venomous comments, same barely veiled threats since he entered this room, Jhandel would have been more shaken to hear such conversation surround him. So they sought to break his resolve? He was no silvertongue like his prince, but he could play their petty games.

                                                        "Please ladies, gentlemen, drink. The night is young but we have much to celebrate! How often does a man get to witness first hand the ascension of a prince?" the stocky man with the rich gold beard barked over the crowd, waving over a serving boy with one massive hand. Jhandel had developed an immediate distaste for this one's company, loud and obnoxious as it was it drew stares he would rather not have drawn. "And we would have never known about it, had it not been that dear Jhandel was named not long ago," he laughed again despite having nothing to laugh at and the people around laughed with him.

                                                        Jhandel however tried his damnest not to grimace. It had been years since he became a Lord Knight though because he never appeared at these formal events, much less shown himself to the public wearing Rhakovan's Green under the prince's silver emblem, he could understand where the misunderstanding came from. Yet when he observed these folk of high society, he expected to see from them at least a shred of respect. What greeted him instead were grins made wolfish by the light of the mystical flowers. He hated it. Hated them. Hated having to stand out here like some trophy, to be evaluated for imperfections because they certainly were not admiring him.

                                                        "Ah, that may be true, Obadiah. But Jhandel holds no candle against Ynthrek's son. You know that man is treated like royalty within these halls; the king once said he is his favourite amongst his adopted family." Ah. So it was the lady's turn to speak, wretched woman; Jhandel called her Blushing-Maiden for all the coyish acts she performed. They had moved on from the pointless chatter about weather into more dangerous waters --dangerous for the implications hidden behind otherwise honest words.

                                                        "So the boy has the king's favour. What of it? Only the prince may name the one he wishes to stand by his side as Guardian. Regardless of Jhandel's competency, it is ultimately the prince's decision." By then each member of this crowd had a glass in hand. They were amicable enough; Jhandel could care less whether they addressed him by his title or not, though he was beginning to find the entire thing tiresome. There was no question about it. These Zenisian highborns despised the idea of a lowly desert nomad joining their ranks. A kalison and nothing more. He would better serve his country out in the wilds than here absorbing jeers.

                                                        What was Notras thinking?

                                                        Jhandel drank carefully from his glass, a mask of cool indifference firmly in place as another asked him how he felt about this Ynthrek's son. Months ago he would have laughed and agreed with the remarks about him being unsuitable for the job, but times were changing. His prince had made it more than clear that he wanted Jhandel at his side and that he would be expected to fight for it. What an odd request, though Notras was hardly transparent in his dealings. There had to be a reason for his suffering, Jhandel thought. Some political gain, perhaps?

                                                        Jhandel took another sip. He needed a distraction, an excuse to be elsewhere. Listening to these vile creatures talk about him when the movement of their lips were concealed behind fans and shifting light, it was breaking him. And damn them all to the depths of the abyss if he let them see how shaken he really was.
Emmaleth's avatar

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There isn't anything with furr, xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

feathers, or scales xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx
that I can't handle!. xxxxxxxx

                                                        xx _________________↘ ↘ ✫ ✫ ✫
                                                        i a h e l i a . . m a b a n
                                                        (Yah-hehl-yah May-ben)

                                                        ✫ ✫ ✫ ↖ ↖ _________________

                                                          mood: curious
                                                          company: none
                                                          location: banquet hall

                                                        Iahelia had enjoyed her brief meeting with Xanthia. She had been a little startled to hear that her presence had frightened off the chef of the restaurant. She made note of that and figured she would try to meet him later and apologize for whatever it was that she'd done that had disturbed him so badly, although she couldn't think for the life of her what it was. Maybe he looked at her and just knew she was a wild lady from the forest and didn't approve of her being in his restaurant. That had happened to her in the past and, while it was no fault of her own, she didn't like making other people feel uncomfortable. Her meal came and the other girl excused herself, and it was then that Iahelia realized how late it was getting and that she should make haste with her meal and get going herself.

                                                        The banquet hall was magnificent, just as the animal tamer had guessed. The birds they'd wanted her to tend to were large and colorful and inside of wondrous cages that reached towards the heaven-like ceilings. While tending to domesticated animals was her job, the sight of them locked in cages, no matter how large and spectacular they were, often weighed down on the girl's shoulders. Animals were meant to be free and not locked in cages. It was always discouraging, but here in the city, Iahelia knew that she had to work to earn a living to keep a roof over her head. Even after a decade, city life was still an adjustment for her. She often felt homesick when working in or around the castle. It was so different from the shack she grew up in with her family in the depths of the wood.

                                                        She spent a couple hours alone with the birds, personally acquainting herself with them. That was no trouble at all. She did have a way with creatures, after all. It was when the banquet hall began to fill that Iahelia began to feel slightly out of place. There people were in beautiful silks and high-end fashions, and there she was, still in her street clothes. She had to remind herself that she was not attending the banquet as a guest, but as an employee. This part was not one for her to sit back and enjoy. She was working. Suddenly, a small hint of sadness passed through her, and when she looked up, she felt uncomfortable. "I will return in a moment," she cooed quietly to the extravagant bird as she gently placed her hands on its cage. "I'm afraid I need some air," she murmured, not caring that the bird tilted its head at her curiously. It wasn't like it was aware of her feelings like she was of its, but it didn't matter to her.

                                                        Iahelia made her way through the crowd and up some stairs. She didn't often work this far inside the castle, so she wasn't really familiar with its innards. She went this way and that, looking for a balcony or exit, but she couldn't find one, and, before too long, the beast master found herself lost. Rounding a corner, she found herself outside the Hall of Heroes where a man was speaking with a knight. This definitely was not where she'd meant to land herself. Quickly, she turned to leave, but before she could, some of the words being said met with her ears. "Tell him Abel Brynhildr from Quixote wishes to speak to him about the expedition he is organizing. Tell him I want in." Abel from the Quoxote! Isn't that what Xanthia said the chef's name was? It had to be the same man! Brown eyes lit with enthusiasm once more, her own awkward feelings fled as she quickly turned back around and took several brave steps towards the men speaking. The knight turned and rose an eyebrow at her, but Iahelia paid him no mind.

                                                        "Abel Brynhildr from Quixote? A woman I met at your restaurant today says that I made you uncomfortable. My name is Iahelia, and I wanted to apologize for whatever it was that I did to make you feel that way," she said earnestly, her brow slightly furrowed as she looked at him with utmost seriousness. Then her eyes widened for a moment as she realized what Abel had been speaking to the knight about. "An expedition? Leaving... Zenithis?" she inquired, an almost eager look coming to her face. "What sort of expedition? I must know the details," she said, trying not to sound at all demanding but failing in doing so, just a little bit.

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        When Denre had caught her breath she decided to extend her search inside the palace. She made her way through the passages until she arrived at the hall of heroes. The hall was adorned with hundreds of iridescent crystal flowers that sparkled in the light of the room. There were several tables with food set upon them and a dozen groups of nobles chatting. In one group Denre spotted the man she was looking for. Jhandel was standing in the centre of a semicircle made of nobles with his back to a pillar.

        Denre went to interrupt the conversation but stopped herself to observe first. She knew that these parties were as much a political event as a celebratory event from past experiences. The nobles surrounding Jhan were like a pack of wolves surrounding their target and closing in for the kill. Each looking for a crack in the man's defences where they could strike. Denre's entrance could only provide opportunities for the nobles to exploit.

        Walking over to a nearby table Denre grabbed a plain white disposable napkin. With a pen that she borrowed from a man collecting signatures for a petition Denre scrawled a note. The man was of noble origin, although recently down on his luck due to a policy change regarding the way he stored his fortunes. He wore a red robe and had short cut brown hair. There was a slight bleed from the ink on the napkin but it was still legible.

        I need your help answering a bunch of questions I have regarding the events of the tournament. If you could meet me in the rear courtyard when you find a moment I would be most appreciative. Best of luck with the wolves.
        --Siri Rispit

        Folding the napkin in half twice Denre employed the services of the petition man once again. At the price of a signature the man was instructed to deliver the letter to Jhandel under the guise of attempting to collect petitions from him and the surrounding nobles. Denre signed the man's paper (with a false name) and the petition man set off to deliver the letter. Standing near a table full of food Denre grabbed a couple of dessert-like puffs and ate while she watched her plan unfold.
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HER VOICE echoed throughout the Hall of Heroes as if the whole hall had been silent. No one else heard her speak other than Abel and the guard he was speaking to, as everyone was holding their own conversations and games amongst themselves, but to him, it was like there had been no one else in the Hall except for the two of them. Just like before at Quixote, he felt like his sanity was trying to flee from his grasp. His fingers curled tightly, turning his knuckles a pale white. How terrible was his luck? What possible sin did he commit that could have angered their God so much that he was being punished in such a way? He thought back over the past number of years. He hadn't done anything wrong. Overly wrong. He had beaten a few people for disrespecting food and his restaurant. And he shattered a man's hand and nose with a frying pan once for groping Erionelle's breasts. That one was fun. But nothing too bad. So why? Why him?

"Abel Brynhildr from Quixote? A woman I met at your restaurant today says that I made you uncomfortable. My name is Iahelia, and I wanted to apologize for whatever it was that I did to make you feel that way." A woman at the restaurant? Who would...? Xanthia. The way he barged out on her so abruptly must have bothered her. And no doubt her ever discernible eye caught on to what it was that had bothered him. So she approached the woman and probably questioned her about his leaving. And this poor woman, what had she called herself? Iahelia? She had no idea what this was about. She knew nothing of Zanya, and here he was, condemning her simply because she looked similar? He took a quick glance at her out of the corner of his eye. No, not similar. She was the bloody spitting image of his beloved and late Knight. Curse her for her appearance. And curse him for having such terrible luck. "An expedition? Leaving... Zenithis? What sort of expedition? I must know the details." Her sudden inquiry about the expedition had given him the lucky break he needed. It probably would not last, but if he had any luck, it would at least last awhile. He'd hate to have to explain his strange behavior before. And, in truth, he just didn't want to talk about it.

The knight had raised an eyebrow at them, and Abel sighed. "Would you please be useful now and go find Sir Jhandel? I wish to speak with him, preferably before the sun rises, thank you." The knight glared and probably would have said some remark back against him, but Abel turned to look at Zany--Iahelia. She had asked him a question, after all, and he would be rude to ignore her. That would have gone against everything his father had taught him. "Word on the street is that Sir Jhandel has been putting together an expedition that will be traveling beyond the borders of the Tourmaline Empire. No one knows what is out there to encounter, and there's no doubt in the minds of most people that it would be a one way trip." Abel smiled then, his expression almost turning dark. Not threatening. Almost... in enjoyment. In a crude, evil sense of enjoyment. "But that just adds to the excitement, doesn't it? The thought of going off into the wilderness in search of the unknown with no knowledge of what you'll encounter? The possibilities of what we'd find out there would be endless. Animals. Monsters. People. Terrains. I think it would be an experience of a lifetime. And I've spent my whole life in Zenithis. This expedition could be worthwhile." He stopped and thought for a moment. This was almost sounding like he was rehearsing this speech for Jhandel for when he met him. Maybe he was? "Besides, not to boast or anything, but my addition to the expedition would benefit Sir Jhandel. He's not going to find a better cook than me."

His heart had begun to race as he realized how he was so casually talking to Zan--Iahelia. Iahelia. Iahelia. Not Zanya. Iahelia. But not did she look so much like his deceased friend, the way he was able to talk to this woman was just like his conversations with Zanya. She was reminding him more and more of Zanya, and that alone was threatening his sanity. Maybe this trip was exactly what he needed now. A chance to get away from Zenithis and from Iahelia. A chance to get away from everything. Yes, that was what he needed. And he would not take "no" for an answer. Jhandel would have no choice to bring him. He would make him see that.

.:Edited. Sorry for crap post.:.
Cassandra Voorhees's avatar

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                                                        JHANDEL ROLLED the stem of the wine glass between his fingers, slowly as to not draw attention to his restless fidgeting. He stared distractedly at the deep red liquid, somewhat perturbed by what he saw --his image reflected in crimson showed all his years in those tired eyes. He did not know precisely when he had started to feel so old though the exact date and time were irrelevant. It all began with Notras. Even before the prince grew into adulthood he had commanded the respect of those in his company, driving the then fledgling of a knight into responsibilities most did not tackle until many years down the path.

                                                        Jhandel could say he missed his childhood. Back when wars remained tales told around fires, where the allure of nobility and royalty came from wild imaginations of grandeur and dignity, those moments where he could laugh because nothing depended on his sobriety... Jhandel grimaced into the glass, passing off the motion as a reaction to the bitterness of his drink. It had been so long ago since he gave up that life --it still pained him to hear some of his kin call him rogue for abandoning his people, his clan --but the ache was there whenever the present left him wandering in memory. He was born one of the Bloodstone Sentinels, renowned for their tenacity and ferocious grace like the melted sand of the Ihavo, but here in Zenithis he felt himself questioning just how much his blood meant if he found each day more difficult to draw upon the strength of his people.

                                                        Jhandel shut his eyes against the world, fighting the rising nausea threatening to take hold of him. He blamed it on the stress of the mission but he knew that wasn't entirely true. The knight missed his home. As much as he called all of Tourmaline his resting grounds, no place held his heart like the desert did. A distant, sombre voice asked him why it bothered him to this extent now when times in the past had not. And with a sickening realization he understood why.

                                                        For all his appearances, his posturing, his bravado, Jhandel was not ready to die. This time, too, he would be bringing along citizens. Not soldiers.

                                                        Rothaelim, what have I done?

                                                        The others seemed to pick up on his darkened silence, directing the conversation to mercifully less heavy topics. Jhandel didn't know whether he thought their pretending to care for his mental state was better than the jokes made at his expense. One glance at those wary eyes and he decided, no it definitely was not better.

                                                        Jhandel wrapped an arm around his waist, free hand coming to rest on his hip. He dug his fingers into the white sash there, something of a habit born out of the need for comfort. He hadn't said anything for a while now but try as he might, words were lost in the maelstrom of his mind. It was only when another individual broke their quaint little circle did he finally manage to grab hold of solid ground and speak up.

                                                        "Sir, you understand it is not polite to solicit favours during a celebration such as this. Work should not be on your mind when the king has so graciously granted us time to enjoy life without the burden of everyday troubles," Jhandel said, surprised that his voice sounded stronger than he felt. He was painfully aware of the irony in his own statement though he shrugged the guilt aside as a napkin was traded for his empty wine glass. Jhandel thanked the man kindly, waving away the petitioner's apologies for being intrusive. Regardless of the reason --he only read the latter half of the message --he was grateful for the opportunity to leave this room.

                                                        A half smile here, a disapproving remark there (
                                                        "I answer the missives of my guests as a good host should. If you were more attentive to your followers, this would be more apparent to you.") and Jhandel was gone.

                                                        Making his way to the garden courtyard of the queen's was simple even if he had never been to the palace before. For everywhere he looked little lanterns in the shape of flowers floated in the darkness, guiding guests to the areas they were allowed in. Jhandel found the design incredibly impressive; the unlit halls carried enough uncertainty that most would rather stay on proper paths, yet he didn't feel discomfort when he passed despite hearing the threat of assassins like the bells of noon. Eventually windows turned to archways and a breeze from over the mountains brought with it the scent of winter blossoms.

                                                        Jhandel found a bench against one of the courtyard's walls, sitting quietly as the atmosphere demanded silence. He leaned forwards into his hands, gazing forlornly through the arches at the moonlit garden made of white stone and frozen flora.

                                                        Some days he wondered if the Queen made this place to reflect her own beautiful, cold heart.
Lord Scottacus's avatar

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Denre Rispit

User ImageSeeing the exchange go smoothly Denre tipped the petition man a bit of extra money and followed the knight. She herself didn't actually know the way to the rear courtyards and instead decided to avoid the risk and follow Jhandel. The courtyard was all arches and flowers, small pathways made of loose white pebbles cut through it in intricate designs. The arches were made of white stone and had detailed mosaics carved into them.

On one of the many wooden benches that resided in the garden Jhandel stopped and buried his face in his hands. The man looked tired and old beyond his age. The weight of responsibility was far from light on this man's shoulders. Denre gave the man but a minute of peace before approaching from the hallway. Sitting on the bench beside the man Denre gazed upward through the openings left by the crossing lattice of stone that stretched between the walls of the garden. The sky was clear and the stars bright and Denre lost herself in the stars for a short while. The hundreds of stars reminded her just how small she was.

It's beautiful isn't it, the night sky?" She murmured quietly

Regaining her focus Denre turned to the knight. Her expression showed that her matters bore importance. It was around now that Denre remembered that Jhandel hadn't been informed of her new choice of form.

"It's me Denre, I switched forms for the tournament to avoid bringing undue attention to my other form. Alas, now I am stuck in this form a while longer as i cannot change with the deep injuries I sustained from the tournament."

There she went again, revealing all her weaknesses to him. She really hoped she could trust this man.

"A desert man attacked me in the finals. That in itself wouldn't warrant this conversation, the thing is he only started trying to kill me after seeing my markings. He knew something about them, about me. He called me a kalison and it just stuck out to me. It just seemed like the word meant more to him."

Denre paused for a long moment, almost long enough for Jhandel to start speaking. This attack had been extremely personal. Nothing like the combat she was used to. Bandits only wanted fame and money and didn't really care who they fought to get it. This man had been after her personally for what and who she was.

"I'm scared there are more like him out there, I've never had to face someone who knows what I am before"

Looking up at the sky Denre not only felt small, but surrounded as well.
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                                                        IT WAS calming, soothing, and Jhandel found himself understanding how a simple garden of stone and dead trees could put his mind to ease. There was an unsettling silence about the place that dimmed the senses that reached outward, muffling the sound of others who shuffled through the courtyard. In this peace he became acutely aware of his own noise --the rasping of his breath between his parted lips, the pulsing rush of blood through his ears, the heavy beating of the heart in his chest --finding immediately that he detested each nervous vibration. Jhandel was disturbing the order with his restlessness; remarkably, that acknowledgement was all he needed to still his hands and clear his thoughts.

                                                        "It's beautiful isn't it, the night sky?" a female voice to his left spoke. Jhandel had not heard her come in, a product of both the garden's properties and likely the woman's own skills, though he made no indication of being surprised. His hyper-awareness of his body right now gave him enough confidence to ward off any threats to his person. He nodded minutely in response to her question, more a slight tilt of his head than anything else. Jhandel could launch into a speech on the wonders of the night sky, but he doubted that was why this woman had called him out here.

                                                        The knight smiled knowingly at Denre's admission to weakness, appreciating immensely the truthfulness of his soon to be companion.
                                                        "You needn't worry, Denre. I have seen you once --I shall not let you out of my sight," Jhandel said, peering into her eyes as if to drive in his point. He knew that probably sounded a lot more menacing than he had intended --it was a greeting, a form of reassurance amongst the desert sentinels --but he let it slide without further explanation. If Denre was unsettled, as shapeshifters characteristically were when amongst those who could discern them from the general crowd, then so be it.

                                                        Soon the conversation turned to the reason for their meeting; an encounter with one of his kind during the tournament had left Denre with these worries and her wound. Jhandel couldn't keep back the frown that pulled at his face on hearing kalison, his own memories of the undeserved title darkening the already malevolent word. He sighed through his teeth, needing no further thought as to the identity of Denre's attacker.

                                                        "A Morrowite, cultist, resident of the City of Dogs," Jhandel began, bitterness edging his words. "I had feared we would encounter the followers of Roshite on our journey; they are drawn to disturbances like beasts to blood." He folded his arms over his chest, leaning back against the stone wall. After a moment's consideration he continued, albeit more cautiously and hopefully less alarmingly. "I advise you to keep your origins private, letting only those you trust or are forced to trust know your nature. With vigilance, you will only be bothered by the most perceptive of Roshite's Hands. At that point, they too become my enemy."

                                                        Personal vendettas aside, Jhandel had made it a point to silence those cultists whose actions grew too noticeable. What they did behind closed doors was never of interest to him. When those plans involved civilians however, he found more than adequate justification to bleed their presence from his beautiful desert. He grimaced. He would have to be careful in the future, taking great pains to ensure his armour of discipline stayed firmly in place. What horrendous irony it would be if he let his anger run free and began hunting them as they hunted others.

                                                        Jhandel shook his head, mildly embarrassed that he had lost track of the conversation. It was too easy here to fall into one's own thoughts, surrounded by the sound of his heartbeat. He threw himself at the task of explaining the word Denre had been addressed by, quickly before the memories could choke him.
                                                        "Kalison means 'son of nothing' or 'son or no one.' When spoken it can be anything from a harmless insult to the most violent denunciation. It also--" Jhandel swallowed thickly, visibly struggling against the words. "For those... of the faith, it means you have lost your right to exist."

                                                        It was the nicest way he could phrase it. Short of bearing Taltherion's Mark, being named kalison was the fastest way to alienate yourself from all who understood its meaning. Thankfully, few carried this extent of knowledge and words were never impossible to erase.

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