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Xanthia clutched Abel’s coat and held on tight, returning his embrace. Beneath the fabric she could feel his muscle: warm and formed like the work of a master sculptor. His shoulder was wet with her tears by the time they stopped flowing. There was so much more she hadn’t told him. Indeed, she had merely hinted at the fact that Denre was a shapeshifter through using the pronoun “she” when Abel knew her only as a man. That ability hadn’t disturbed Xanthia at all, only sparking her interest. What were its limits? Gender obviously wasn’t one of them. Could she do animals too? The questions bubbling inside started to pain when Xanthia realized she might never get to ask them, let alone talk ever again to someone as cool as Denre. In a fit of emotion she had spoiled it. The insults she had flung at Denre were tearing apart her insides for all their cruelty. How could she be so nasty to someone who needed a friend more than anybody? What shoulder did Denre have in a time like this? She would have to find her as soon as possible. For now though, Xanthia left it to ferment in her mind, lest she drench Abel’s coat with another wave of tears.

“I’m sorry Abel. I’m so sorry you have to see me like this … I guess my hopes were just unrealistic.”

"Tell them to find another cartographer. You shouldn't be on that expedition, Xanthia. The last place you should be is in that godforsaken land to the South. The Blood-Lord is an unforgiving and cruel ruler. I don't... You shouldn't be there. We'll talk with Jhandel and tell him to get a different cartographer."


“No”
, Xanthia declared before she could even think. The word had flowed instantly off her tongue with a defensive accent and she was caught for a moment in confusion. Why did she say that? It was what she wanted, wasn’t it? Abel was darn right she shouldn’t be on a military mission into a blood-lord’s domain. Xanthia could hardly wield a blade let alone fight with one and she knew it. If they were going to die then she would be the first to go. She didn’t have superhuman strength as Nero did, some otherworldly gift like Denre, or the years of experience that Jhandel packed under his belt. No, Xanthia cracked rocks not skulls and would never stand a chance against some monstrous forest beast if it decided it didn’t want her drawing its portrait. She was a naturalist that drew maps. If Jhandel needed a cartographer to draw his battle lines then there were a hundred others more employable than her; ones that could draw maps and fight.

“I…I’ll talk to him.”

There was every reason to agree with Abel’s suggestion but still Xanthia’s soul had jumped to a rejection. There was more to it and she couldn’t lie to herself. What was left for her in Zenithis? The museum had kicked her out, she was too liberal for politics, and the university didn’t appreciate her impulsive-interest approach to academics. What a waste of money it would be anyway; starting something new just to change the focus of her studies a year later. Her mother’s shop: that was left. Though her father delighted in the security of literally never even leaving the house to work, Xanthia’s mother seemed to loathe her presence these days. It wasn’t that she didn’t do a good job, the hynamo thing being an exception, of course. But her mother knew that she was born for something more. She had the blood of an adventurer and Xanthia’s mother hated seeing her caught in the monotony of transcribing maps in their very own household. Yes, there was so much more but Xanthia let it be for now. The silver light of the moon, the beauty of the Magnolia, her open heart, and the warmth she had felt in Abel’s embrace all convinced her that words were probably not necessary.

“Dance with me”
, Abel beckoned. The scratches on Xanthia’s arms and ankles had started to sting only after Abel pointed them out. They had finished bleeding a while ago so Xanthia simply ignored them and allowed Abel to help her to her feet. She began to blush as Abel’s hands cradled her own and hoped with futility that the pale moonlight would hide the pinking of her cheeks. As they began to sway, Xanthia noticed for the first time the muffled music emanating from some far off corner of the banquet. It was magical, more perfect than that play could ever hope to be. Together they swayed, back and forth under the beauty of the magnolia that rained gentle pink pedals. She held Abel close, grasping his coat as she did before and posed one last question amidst the gentle romance.

“Abel…if I went, would you come with me?”


Lifting her head from Abel’s sweet caress, Xanthia looked deep into his eyes and trembled.
Temporarily Schizophrenic's avatar

Versatile Streaker

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ABEL WOULDN'T lie; hearing that Xanthia had no intention of talking to Jhandel about not being a part of the expedition disappointed him. He didn't want her out in the field and in danger. A glance into her eyes told him that she was conflicted about the whole thing, but she was determined to go. Why? Was it her father? Her mother? Or was she pushing her own limits? Maybe a bit of all three? Either way, she had every intention of going as the cartographer that Jhandel required. Which actually meant that his decision had also been made.

He helped Xanthia stand and they swayed together in the silver moonlight. The sound of music from somewhere far off in the festival came to them, muffled by the distance. But it was enchanting in and of itself. Lively but low. Like a soft whisper. Or a caress. His eyes found hers as they danced, locking onto her eyes (and her blush). He chuckled a bit several times whenever he caught glance of it. Which was quite often. But he did what he could to just smile and enjoy the moment they had. This was probably the only night they were going to have like this. Who knew when Jhandel was going to call the "Let's get going", and when that day came, every day after that was going to be a fight to survive. From the wilderness. The elements. The animals. Even man. Hell, nature itself would be out to get them. So, he would enjoy this moment while he could. Even if it only lasted a short time.

Xanthia held onto Abel closely, as she had before. And then, the question came. Softly. “Abel…if I went, would you come with me?” Her eyes lifted and locked with his. They were so close to one another now. He could feel her breath on his cheek. His nose. His lips. She was trembling. She wanted him to go with her if she went. That was her question. If he would go. Did she really need to ask him? She knew already what his answer would be. He smiled and lifted his hand away from hers, placing it on her cheek. Once, twice, he caressed her cheek with his thumb. Then, of course, it was gone. He took a step back and turned away from her, his eyes lifting up to the moon.

"Go with you? On a suicide expedition into lands unknown, into the domain of the Blood-Lord of the South, who obtains her youthful form and everlasting life by sacrificing all those who oppose her? Me, with you? A cook and a mapmaker?" He turned his head and looked at her, his grin wide and his eyes twinkling. Unlike what Xanthia had thought, and probably loathed, about him, it wasn't the violence that excited him. It was the danger. Of course he was going. There was so much to learn, to see. The world had so much unknown elements out there to discover. And he was sure as hell going to find more than just Tourmaline. He had that sense of adventure and excitement in the face of danger. And it was not something he picked up from Marx or anyone at Quixote. That was something that flowed within his blood. "Xanthia, my mind was made about this the moment you told me "no". There's no way in hell I'm leaving your protection to some group of strange men who may or may not be able to keep you safe. He wanted to go. Yes, for the danger. Yes, for the excitement. Yes, for the adventure. But he wanted to go because Xanthia was going. Because he wanted to protect her. Because she wanted him to go, to be there, to protect her.

He took the few steps back to her and lifted his hand, once again touching Xanthia's face. Slowly, it fell to her neck and he put his forehead to hers. His eyes fell shut and he just sat there, for a long while, and listened to the sound of her breathing. Which was growing quite heavy rather quickly. Again, he chuckled, and started shifting back and forth slightly in a dancing sway. "Xanthia? He opened his eyes and met hers, once again finding the two of them less than inches apart from one another. "If you would have me, I'll go with you. I'll protect you. I swear." In truth, what he said was more of a repeat from what he said before. And she had already asked if he would go with her. But this was different for him. He wanted to hear it. He wanted to hear her say she wanted him to go.

.:OOC: Okay, totally shitty post. I had my whole plan in mind, got up to go start dinner, came back and facedesked when I realized my thought process was gone. Anywho, romance is up in the air.:.
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THE COLD air where Abel’s warm touch had been seemed paralyzing as Xanthia watched him step back, turn, and look to the light of the silvery moon. She took a brief step forward but slowed, letting her hands fall woefully to her side as they finally accepted the phantomness in their clench. Enlightened by the moon, Abel seemed to consider her question carefully, something that came to Xanthia’s surprise. Her heart skipped each beat until he spoke.

"Go with you? On a suicide expedition into lands unknown, into the domain of the Blood-Lord of the South, who obtains her youthful form and everlasting life by sacrificing all those who oppose her? Me, with you? A cook and a mapmaker?"


Don’t remind me, Xanthia thought of his words. They made her feel so stupid. With tales of such an iniquitous blood-lord, the foolhardy dangers, and of course their essentially irrelevant qualifications, one would have to be crazy to accept such a quest from a secluded knight. But there was more, Xanthia could feel it in her soul. She detested all of those things, particularly the military accent. It seemed to defy her closest values; that she would be remarking borderlines with a group of strange soldiers just so these ignorant Rhakovans could continue their policy of isolation. With each thought of how ludicrous the expedition seemed, however, something beckoned. Was it curiosity? Wherever darkness fell there was room for light. Where there was a question, there could be an answer. The stars of fate were aligned tonight. Somewhere, something incredible was waiting to be known.

"Xanthia, my mind was made about this the moment you told me "no".


So that word hadn’t been a mistake. That’s why she hadn’t thought; it came gifted from the stars themselves. Xanthia smiled as she watched Abel turn around and come towards her once more. She met him halfway and his hand rose again to re-fill the cold footprint it had left upon her face. For a moment they stood close, a long moment, forehead to forehead. She would go, with him. No matter what they faced Xanthia knew he would always be there. As long as he came there would always be that shoulder to cry upon, that strong perfectly formed muscle to carry her … and that calming embrace. It had always been there, even when Xanthia hadn’t looked, powered by some inner instinct. She trusted him and it was that trust that made the difference. “No” had been right. She no longer needed to talk to Jhandel. They would go. And her father? Of all the people who needed to know about the contents of Jhandel’s journal he wasn’t one of them. Xanthia couldn’t stop her heart from racing. Abel chuckled and re-ignited their gentle sway once more.

“Xanthia?”
, he asked, locking his eyes with hers. "If you would have me, I'll go with you. I'll protect you. I swear."

They were so close now. Xanthia’s eyes were fixated on his and their dance seemed guided by Kol himself. The memories flowed from those eyes as they glittered under the moon. The play, the way he stood up to her father, Quixote and a hundred other times flashed in those eyes. Xanthia pulled herself in closer still. ”Abel”, she whispered, ”You always have. Come with me.” More she leaned, hoping that Abel wouldn’t protest the fact that their lips were almost touching. A kiss, she wished upon the stars that shone above them. But before they could connect, a dark figure slouched in the corner of her eye. Xanthia looked. It was Denre.

“D-D-Den..re?”
, she stuttered before pulling away from Abel to rush towards the slumping figure. Indeed, her eyes had not been mistaken. The slender woman she had trashed with words lay collapsed on a bench with blood soaking through her torn dress. Xanthia’s heart continued to race, but now it was powered by fear rather than romance. ”DENRE!”, she shrieked. The cause of the bleeding was at first not obvious and in the dark even Xanthia’s eyes could be fooled. Had her insults hurt the poor woman so deeply that she had been driven to suicide? There was a moan of panic on her breath as she exhaled. Xanthia searched desperately for a knife or dagger of sorts and found one in the grass, fallen from Denre’s hand. A brief feeling of relief washed over. There was no blood on the dagger and fortunately she hadn’t found it plunged into her chest. Moreover, Denre was breathing. The relief did not last long, however. The blood had soaked well through the dress and whatever torn piece of clothing had been wrapped around her chest.

Denre was bleeding badly, and had obviously passed out from the loss of blood. Even more frightening, she might even die if nothing was done. ”Abel get help!”, Xanthia cried. She had to get that dress off. It was far beyond saturated and was only making the bleeding even more dangerous. As swiftly and carefully as she could, Xanthia used Denre’s dagger to cut the makeshift bandage loose as well as the previous bandaging. There was no time to unravel it. At last she removed the last piece but the sight of the wound was nearly more than she could stomach. Blood oozed from the gash. Empowered by the stress, Xanthia thought quickly. Her dress was thicker than Denre’s, it would be more absorbent. She took the dagger to her outfit and cut a long chunk without hesitation before lifting the woman’s back so she could wrap it around her chest. It would help but more needed to be done.

“Wait! I might need your help”
, Xanthia called to Abel. Some ice would slow the bleeding but there was none to be seen … except for maybe the Queen’s garden. It had been cold there; the trees frosted eternally by what many regarded to be the sorrow of her death. They needed to drag her there. Xanthia went to lift Denre but struggled to find leverage that wouldn’t stress the wound. She called Abel to help. Perhaps those master shaped biceps – s***! There was no time for that. Helping as much as she could, Xanthia assisted in moving Denre to the Queen’s garden. The woman’s breath misted in the cool air, a sure reminder that there was still hope.

“We need to get her legs up.”
, Xanthia directed as they set the slender figure down, leaning her legs on a stone bench while her back rested on the cool ground. Blood had just begun to soak through the bandage derived from Xanthia’s dress. The bleeding was slowing but there was still more to be done. The pale flower of Sophora caught her eye. Xanthia was no medic but she had studied the medicinal plants used by some tribes of Thresaldil forest. The flowers of the Sophora tree were commonly used to slow bleeding. Launching herself towards the tree, Xanthia tore a handful of flower and rushed immediately back to Denre. Could she just shove them down her throat? No, how stupid. They needed to be mashed! She looked to Abel, those blades would do.

“Abel can you chop this and mash it in water? It will help slow the bleeding.”


The situation seemed stable now but Denre was still unconscious. The immediate stress began to fade and replaced itself with grief and remorse. Xanthia was convinced this was her fault and the guilt of her words cut like a blade that made her bleed tears. She wouldn’t let those insults be her last words to Denre. With a shaky, squeaky voice of fear and grief, Xanthia begged the broken figure.

“Denre I’m so sorry. Please wake-up. Please. I’m so so sorry. How will you ever forgive me? Denre, wake-up.”
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Denre Rispit

User ImageIt was dark. At least that was the word Denre was using to describe it. Blackness pervaded her vision but she could sense the presence of others all around her. Hundreds of people were talking at once, some to her, some to the other occupants. The resulting noise melded into one huge cacophony of sound that blocked all her other sense out. How had she gotten here? More importantly where was here?

The expanse around her seemed endless yet at the same time the space she was in was overcrowded. The cluster of people that surrounded her seemed to have a finite edge where no one passed. Moving to the edge of the crowd Denre noticed huge black bars crossing through the darkness that walled the people in. The bars where jet black, though Denre didn't know how she knew that and the about three feet wide and paper thin. The bars had crisp edges that were perfectly smooth. The gaps between them were easily big enough for one to move between yet for some reason whenever she tried she found herself turned around and moving back into the crowd. The bars were constantly shifting and fluttering in the currents but the wall held firm all the same. From the expanse between the enclosure a voice cut through the din of the crowd. It came from every direction at once. Despite the clarity with which Denre heard it none of the occupants seemed to notice.


“Denre I’m so sorry. Please wake-up. Please. I’m so so sorry. How will you ever forgive me? Denre, wake-up.”

Denre felt a tugging and she gradually began to rise out of the crowd. Some of the people tried to grab on to her ankles and hold her down but she kicked them off and continued to rise. She rose back out through the buffering currents of voices and reached the point where the black bars curled around the top of the enclosure. Phasing effortlessly through the bars this time she continued until she broke the surface of; well, something.

Opening her eyes slowly she found herself once again able to see. Slowly the new scenery came to her. The frosty trees and finally the source of the voice Xanthia. An odd taste permeated her mouth and her legs were resting on a bench above her. Her fuzzy mind tried to force thoughts out and make the connections. Where was she, where had she been? Xan was leaning over her, maybe she knew at least some of the answers.

"Where am I, What happened?" Denre asked; still not fully conscious.
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Dapper Dabbler

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DESPITE THE hours she had spent in Rhakovan's Castle by now, Becky was still not used to the extravagant sights, sounds and smells all about her. She hailed from the depths of Threshaldil and the closest thing they had to compare to the palace's finery in her rural hometown were time tarnished gifts bestowed on Master Tierson decades ago for lending his services as an assassin to the Tourmaline Empire. It was no surprise that Becky was starstruck by the frostvale flowers shimmering from the walls, the exotic birds of paradise kept for the sole reason for decoration and the downright mouthwatering food laid on banquet tables that seemed to have no end in sight.

The only reason Becky couldn't bring herself to indulge in the spiced meats she was nearly drooling over was because her guilt gnawed at her more than her hunger. She'd already wasted enough time getting more acquainted with the palace than she liked. A young but tenacious and fiery servant girl had mistaken Becky for a common guard employed at the castle and dragged her off to help with the final preparations for the Summit. Never one to turn down an order, Becky helplessly followed every request for assistance, from delivering messages of last minute changes to lifting massive decorations up and down and all around the halls. She even helped raise a tapestry in the Hall of Heroes that depicted Astato Tierson performing one of his many feats, the throat-slitting of a mad boar ravaging the countryside with one slice of his twin katars, a unique pair of weapons forged by the heat of the Ihavo Desert.

Recalling the deeds of her teacher brought back memories of Becky's rough training under his eye and by extension, reminded her of the throbbing pain all over her sore muscles. She'd done her best to beat the clock counting down to the formal beginning of the celebration but by no means had the work been easy. The weight of her armour hadn't helped her in the least to haul those large bird cages up to the entrance hall then down to where they really belonged. Worse yet, the Summit was already in full swing by the time she was relieved of her duties and pointed towards the Archives. A stray scholar with more love for books than parties told her that Jhandel Koven was long gone and most likely occupied at the reception held at the Hall of Heroes. At that, Becky headed there at once, determined not to waste anymore time getting sidetracked or tiptoeing around the issue of delivering her teacher's letter to Lord Koven.

But where pain and weariness couldn't stop her, anxiety and worry did. Becky stayed on the outskirts of the celebration once she reached it, where the creaking of her out of place attire was less likely to draw stares. Try as she might, cleaning her armour daily still couldn't make it shine with the luster possessed by the uniforms of the honour guard. Every look sent her way, whether it was disapproving, curious or even admiring, reminded her of what a fish out of water Becky was. Knowing that she'd be completely inept at navigating the waters of etiquette and politics, Becky kept fair from the sea of people, hoping to catch Jhandel from afar, by himself.

Unfamiliar with Rhakovan's Castle as she was, Becky soon ended up in a dark corridor, empty of people or any other signs of life. She figured she wouldn't find Jhandel nor any other soul in this unused part of the palace once the shadows grew thick enough to obscure her own hands before her face. She turned about to find the lights of the reception shining from afar, while a line of torches glowed from a much closer location. Becky opted to pursue the nearer line of lights and found herself following a path lit by lanterns into the queen's courtyard.

In the darkness of night, no matter how well the celebration lit it up, Becky didn't see the coinpouch sailing en route towards her head.

“Ow!” The pain in her head was sharp and continued to throb after something dropped to the guard, bouncing off the edge of Becky's armour. The jingle of a mass of somethings sliding over each other rang as she picked up a bag in between two fingers. That sound alone was enough to make her suspect what was inside but the gleam of silver coins sliding into her palm still drew a gasp. “Oh dear, I have to hand this in to someone--”

“You there, halt, by the order of the royal guard!” Becky immediately froze, though the coins spilling from her hand back into their purse didn't. At the sound of a command, she turned around stiffly to meet the authority face to face, or authorities rather, as a group of guards approached. Immediately she was questioned on where she'd been for the entire night and if she knew anything about two guards found unconscious while investigating who could have been the female intruder heard in the room of one Jhandel Koven.

“Wait a moment, aren't you the one who came calling for Lord Koven earlier? The pupil of 'Astato Tierson', if I recall correctly.” After further studying the face of the guard who spoke, Becky found from what could be seen under his armour in the dim light that this man was one of the pair she met at the castle gates. She also realized that held very bad implications for her visit, if what they were saying about an intruder in Jhandel's private quarters was true. She did her best to explain herself, even presenting her letter and the pouch where she held her teacher's ring, but her stammering did little to prove her innocence. Things quickly went south when they also noticed the suspicious coin pouch in her possession that seemed far too heavy to belong to a girl who claimed to have travelled all the way from her home in Threshaldil. The guards decided it would be prudent to seize and search Becky's belongings, which only made the situation worse.


“Please sirs, those are for Lord Koven's eyes only-- !!!” Becky reached for her letter of recommendation as it was torn from her hand. On instinct, she elbowed the guard so he would release it into her grasp. He seemed to fall back from her shove in slow motion as Becky slowly realized the full consequences of what she just done in the presence of the castle guards. She looked up to see the eyes of the men surrounding her first widen in surprise then narrow in anger before she could get out an 'I'm so sorry!' out of her mouth.

“Seize her!” Before the first syllable left his lips, a guard lunged at Becky, who she pushed aside with brute force you wouldn't expect from a lady her size. She then turned on her heel and fled wildly, dodging trees and bushes as she did her best to not trample even the smallest weed in the queen's garden. However well she dodged and overpowered the guards that caught up to her, Becky quickly tired, exhausted from her earlier work. In desperation, she pushed herself into a flowering bush to hide, only to trip and tumble out the other end. The distinct taste of dirt filled her mouth as she landed on her face before Xanthia, Abel and Denre. When she noticed the trio while scrambling to her feet, she instinctively began to apologize for her behaviour.


“Excuse me, please pardon the intrusion but-- Eek!!” Becky was quickly apprehended mid-apology by a guard who ran right over the plants as she had done and tackled her. The rest of the guards followed the sound of their struggle soon after while she tried to escape the grasp of the guard on top of her. The queen was sure to have a fit over the damage done to her beautiful garden.

“By the order of the royal guard, you are placed under arrest for the crimes of breaking and entering into the quarters of a Knight in service to the Tourmaline Empire and obstruction of justice for attempting to impersonate said Tourmaline Knight, attacking at least four members of the royal guard and for resisting arrest.” dictated a man who wore the same uniform as the guards all around but was clearly acting as leader for the time being. Becky was properly bound with her hands behind her back, trying to choke out an explanation through all her sniffling. No one paid her words any mind as Xanthia, Abel and more importantly, Denre and her injury were noticed. “My word, you're bleeding! Please allow us to assist you. Someone fetch a healer for this young woman, quick now!”


Hey, just what are you doing here reading this? ~ fin.
Temporarily Schizophrenic's avatar

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ABEL STOOD there, staring out towards the dead-end wall where Xanthia had been only moments ago. He didn't move. He didn't blink. Hell, he wasn't even sure he was breathing at that moment. He had been left alone in the moonlit garden as Xanthia took off yelling out to someone behind them. Denre. The man who had entered his restaurant around lunch time. The man who Xanthia explained was a woman. Which still made no earthly sense to him. But that was not what was on his mind. Not at the moment anyway. The only thing that ran through his mind at an ungodly speed was the fact that he had been so close, so bloody close, to kissing Xanthia. He hadn't protested when she pulled herself closer and closer still. They had been so close, and a kiss had almost occurred. But before their lips could connect, Denre had caught her attention and she took off.

He sighed and turned, gazing upon the woman that was Denre. The woman had been slumped on a bench and her dress covered in blood. Instinctively, Abel had begun to rush to her side. Shapeshifter or not, Abel was incapable of leaving a woman injured. Xanthia had already begun to command him to get help, but he ignored the command and took the spot by her side. Together, though he had done most of the lift work, they moved Denre to the Queen's garden, where they lay her down on the soft grass and lifted her feet onto the stone bench before them. Xanthia had rushed off to find something that caught her eye while Abel examined the wounds more thoroughly. He was a cook, not a medicine man. But he knew common healing techniques. He was a cook. Cuts and amputations happened on a regular basis in the restaurant business. They had had cooks lose fingers before. Before long, however, Xanthia had returned with some sort of flower in her hand.

"Abel, can you chop this and mash it in water? It will help slow the bleeding." He took the plant and put it on the stone bench next to Denre's legs. Retrieving one of his knives from his backside, he began to chop and mince the flower, then took the handful towards the decorative fountain at the center of the garden. There, sitting upon a risen stone, was a small decorate chalice. How convenient for such an object to be laying around. He submerged the chalice into the nearly icy cold water and added the flowers to the cup, mixing them around into a sort of colourful... slush? What other word could be used to describe whatever medicine he had just made?

He brought it back to Xanthia, who administered the medicine properly. All the while, Abel stood behind and watched silently. It was still blowing her mind that Denre was a woman. And yet, she was a man. This whole scenario was bizarre and made no sense to him. Some part of him new the answer, but he couldn't quite conjure the thought to completion. And that bothered him. It was like some sort of memory locked away in the depths of his mind. What was it?

Thunk! Abel's eyes lifted to find a guard tumbling out from a bush before them. She scrambled to her feet. "Excuse me, please pardon the intrusion but-- Eek!!" The guard in strange armour had been tackled to the ground by one of Tourmaline's own palace guards. What in the world was going on? By now, Abel had risen to his feet and the palace guard had begun to bind the woman's hands.

"By the order of the Royal Guard, you are placed under arrest for the crimes of breaking and entering into the quarters of a Knight in service to the Tourmaline Empire and obstruction of justice for attempting to impersonate said Tourmaline Knight, attacking at least four members of the royal guard and for resisting arrest.” The guard lifted the woman to her feet and had finally taken notice to the situation before his eyes with Abel, Xanthia, and Denre. The man's words are what held his attention. "Breaking and entering into the quarters of a Knight..." and "...impersonating said Tourmaline Knight", as well as "...attacking at least four members of the Royal Guard". Those were false accusations, he was sure of it. And the only reason he was so sure was, well, that was Xanthia and him. They were the ones responsible for said acts. But, of course, Abel could not come right out and say such things. How on earth was he supposed to say that. "My apologies, sir, but you have it wrong. This young lady broke into Jhandel's room and I knocked out the guards. Sorry." Somehow, that didn't seem like the proper way to go about it.

Abel stepped forward and placed his hand on the guard's shoulder. "Sir, I believe you have the wrong person. Unless she attacked four members of the Royal Guard elsewhere, the rendering unconscious of your soldiers was my doing. They had falsely accused me and drew their weapons. I reacted on instinct. I humbly apologize and will accept any form of punishment, and in doing so, I ask that you release this woman. Or he could go about it that way anyways.

.:OOC: Post getting cut WAY short. Dad is kicking me off my computer and I didn't wanna just leave it unfinished until tomorrow night.:.
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Gracious General

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                                                        JHANDEL COULD feel the madness permeating through the air, rolling off Nero and the archer in thick, sluggish waves. He opened his mouth again, made to say more words to force the hunter back to the surface, but his throat filled with ash and the sounds of war --the ringing of mountain and desert forged steel, the thousand nameless voices screaming in terror --sheared through his defences leaving jagged lines of agony. He clutched his head, desperately holding back the rage, the bloodlust, that threatened to rip his heart from him. Jhandel knew at once, through the haze of his mind and his rapidly dwindling control, that they had to leave. The others, the healers and masters of medicine would be alright. But for those that the corruption had touched the taint would spread, linger, until at last it stole every breath a person had to offer.

                                                        Jhandel grabbed Nero's arm, urged him upwards off his chair and away from this sickroom. He beckoned weakly towards a few of the idle attendants, barely adults out of school, to help him. There were only three of them though likely the taint made Nero feel as though a dozen held him captive, a terrible feeling. Jhandel shuddered as he peered into those wild eyes, his imagination creating for him two solid black orbs blinking listlessly up at the lights. He tried summoning words of reassurance, for himself and for the hunter, but try as he might he could not find the right ones. If he closed his eyes, it was as if a hand had torn from a wall of letters those names for love and kindness and mercy. If he looked further, he could see the fires of Wretched Erenil laughing at him.

                                                        Jhandel took the cup that was offered to him, watching despairingly as Nero was laid on the bed furthest from the door.
                                                        "Leave us," he commanded and the attendants obeyed. When they were gone the knight sank to his knees. The water was cool and pure pouring down his throat, soothing the anger as mercy tempers justice. Slowly he remembered what it meant to be still, and the darkness faded with every coherent thought he made. It still ached, that old wound across his chest, but he knew it was only a memory now and the corruption would have no hold over him. In the silence Jhandel became distinctly aware of his capacity to care, to empathize. He swallowed thickly, praying that whatever visions afflicted Nero would not leave him as scarred as he had become.

                                                        He wasn't sure how long he sat there keeping his silent vigil over the sleeping hunter. It must have been late for the next thing that brought him out of his meditation was a soft hand placed upon his shoulder. He followed that pale wrist up to the face of a beautiful, young maiden, her hair cast in brilliant red curls down her back. Jhandel smiled sadly, wishing it had not been so soon after he had made that promise to her to have broken it already. She had enough reasons to worry over him without needing to witness just how deeply the cracks ran.


                                                        "Lordamaine, my lady," Jhandel said, barely a whisper in the windowless room. "I had not thought the darkness would reach this far, this soon. We have not left the city and already two of my men lay injured, one a victim of a vile hate-breeding cult and the other afflicted with corruption that should have remained locked in the ground!" The knight buried his face his in hands, kneading his palms into his eyes as if to rub away the memories. "And what of the prophecy? Am I to sit here now, an idle warrior, to bear witness to the suffering of my people? Lady Lor, this is too cruel even for Him."

                                                        The woman of the singing voice held him gently, like a bird whose wing had been broken by too strong a gale. She pitied him, and all those that would follow him, for Notras had not even begun to tell the tale of Taltherion's return.

                                                        "Hush my child," she said and Jhandel could not help but to remember how he felt so very young beside Notras as well. "There are strong lights gathered about you. Where you fail, the others will succeed. Take strength in Rothaelim's judgement. You are His Favoured."

                                                        Whether she meant the prince or something else entirely, Jhandel did not know. He did not want to know.
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“Where am I? What happened?”

At last Denre’s raspy half-conscious voice eeked through her lips and unleashed a wave of relief through Xanthia’s body. She smiled, her lip stuttering imperceptibly as she stroked the woman’s forehead one final time. Xanthia did not bother to speak immediately. She was too overcome with relief and besides, there would be lots of time. Indeed, there would even be another time and it was that for which she was grateful. Xanthia lifted the cup of ground Sophora and water to Denre’s lips and gently tilted it, sending the bitter liquid on its way. She could see the confusion in those soul-telling eyes. No matter what form Denre had taken, there seemed to be something deep within that couldn’t be changed, something that was impossible to hide. She let go of the thought and resolved to end the torture of silence. Perhaps now Denre had felt the pain of ignorance.

“You almost bled to death.”
, Xanthia remarked with the bluntest end of truth. She felt pride in the fact that she had been able to come to the rescue. Perhaps, she hoped, it could on some level redeem her for the sharp words she had cut him with earlier. An apology began to roll off her tongue before the rustle of the garden’s shrubbery shattered the sincerity of the moment. A woman, clad in glittering platemail, crashed on the ground before the trio. Xanthia gawked towards her, utterly stunned. As the armored figure clambered for her footing Xanthia noticed a quadruplet of guards through the flattened shrub. The woman had barely made it to her feet before she was returned to the dirt by the tackle of a burly man in the armor of the royal guard. A second, similarly armored figure, assisted the take-down while the other two guards filed through the hole in the shrubbery and secured any route of escape. The woman’s struggle ended as the overpowering strength of the guards forced her hands into steel manacles. With a smirk of satisfaction one of the over-watching guards proceeded to catch his breath from the sprint and declare the charges.

“By the order of the royal guard, you are placed under arrest for the crimes of breaking and entering into the quarters of a Knight in service to the Tourmaline Empire and obstruction of justice for attempting to impersonate said Tourmaline Knight, attacking at least four members of the royal guard and for resisting arrest.”


Even through the echoes of his thick helm the man’s sturdy voice rumbled with clarity and command. Xanthia’s eyes and jaw widened yet further as she watched the sniffling woman scramble for an explanation as she was forcibly dragged to her feet. The commander triumphantly lifted the helmet from his head and held it to his side. A man of brawny build and a grizzled beard, he looked about forty. Breaking and entering he had said. Impersonating a knight. Those were her crimes. The connection was immediate – this innocent girl hardly older than herself was being charged for her own crimes. Xanthia coughed the residual air from her lungs, the stagnant gas attempting to manifest itself as a cruel laugh of madness as it crossed her lips. All the world silenced as she peered into the eyes of the beaten innocent. She failed to see or hear the commander order two of his men to get help for Denre. One left with haste while the other inspected Denre’s wounds. Then, Abel stepped forward.

"Sir, I believe you have the wrong person. Unless she attacked four members of the Royal Guard elsewhere, the rendering unconscious of your soldiers was my doing. They had falsely accused me and drew their weapons. I reacted on instinct. I humbly apologize and will accept any form of punishment, and in doing so, I ask that you release this woman.”


Until that moment Xanthia had failed to do or say anything; merely watching with horror through her painfully perceptive eyes. She shook her head slowly in disbelief as Abel confessed himself. What had he done? She didn’t want to hear but was forced to believe it. She tried to be angry, she wanted to be angry, but those feelings were already reserved for herself and the injustice that flowed from every fibre of the innocent woman’s form. The commander lifted a bushy eyebrow of intrigue. The imminent question was obvious. He would ask about the break-in of which Abel knew. Then what would he say? Xanthia had little doubt that the chivalrous man would confess to the break-in as well in an effort to protect her. More injustice and she wouldn't suffer it. She had asked for his protection, but not like this. As the grizzled guard opened his mouth Xanthia closed her eyes and stepped once forward, coming to Abel’s side. She held out Jhandel’s journal and shook her head in shame. She would not be accepting Rothaelim’s blessing this night.

“…I…uh…the break-in was me.”
, she sighed. “If you want proof then here it is. This is Jhandel’s.” The commander’s other eye-brow lifted until he had stomached the surprise. Slowly he took the journal from her hand and browsed it briefly to verify. He nodded with accord before gesturing his comrade to release the armored woman. With slow plodding steps the veteran paced his way behind the two and held the journal to his chin as he carefully considered his words. Xanthia seized the brief moment of silence to glance towards Abel. In the corner of her eye she caught the commander tilting his head towards the night sky.

“…And so he returned to the Godking's Court, old friends welcoming him and praising the God of Mercy's boundless grace."


“The book of forgiveness”
, Xanthia whispered at the commander’s quote. The sturdy man smiled and nodded as he passed her side and returned to in front of them. He spoke with a voice as sure and sturdy as his stature.

“Taltherion’s light returns this night. May his mercy shine upon us all.”
The man stood silent for a moment. There was uncertainty in those words and it was easy to tell. After a long moment of deep thought the guard continued once more, his steady confidence renewed. ”Can one bring justice through vengeance? Perhaps…but I can assure you that I seek no vengeance against those who sacrifice their own gains to help a stranger such as Siri here. That was not the way of Taltherion. Now this …”, the man tapped Jhandel’s journal with his finger. “this is bad. Your crimes are contemptable no doubt but…”, the commander sighed and took a brief pause. “What a poor omen it would be if I were to forsake forgiveness on a night such as this. Be free of all charges. I will return this to Jhandel in person. And you my lady”, the guard turned to Xanthia. “You’d better get those scratches cleaned up and that dress looked after. Who knows what the other nobles will think?”

By then the other guard and a medic had returned with a stretcher and were offering Denre their aid. The commander replaced his helmet and nodded before departing with his men to their cause. There was a moment of stillness as they left. Humbled and cheered by the commander’s wisdom and charity, Xanthia leapt onto Abel and hugged him. But something told her that there was no guarantee his embrace would be returned the same way it had been before.
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User ImageAs her senses began to solidify Denre noticed that Xanthia had been stroking her forehead. Xan's lip was beginning to tremble slightly but she remained silent. Did Denre see a sign of relief? Last she had heard of Xan she was hurling angry insults her way. The pain from those insults still lingered slightly although Denre had not noticed such wounds before. Almost on instinct Denre took inventory on the knives hidden about her person. Each subtle shift of her weight or tensing of a muscle brought the reassuring feel of cold steel and leather to her skin. Xan tipped a cup to Denre's lips and poured a bitter liquid that clung to her tongue leaving a lingering taste. Denre didn't bother to question the composition of the liquid. Poisoning her would have defeated the purpose of saving her in the first place.

"You almost bled to death."

Well that was certainly open. Rarely would Denre be told such from a doctor; no matter how grievously wounded. The statement brought to question of wether Xanthia was still angry with him or not. By the looks of things she had saved Denre from her own stupidity but many people would save those they disliked from death. It was simply human nature to save others of their kind. Idly Denre wondered just how human she was, how many had lives had she ended early? Far more than she would have liked was the immediate answer. Still the question nagged her even after she had answered it.

Her wandering thoughts were interrupted by the entrance of a foreign guard clad in full armor followed by several castle guards and a royal guard. Reflexively clasping one of the knives hidden up the arms of her dress Denre watched the proceedings. The guards decreed an arrest upon the bounds of crimes Denre knew had been committed by her close company. Denre's battle instinct still had her on edge from the sudden entrance and she sized up the woman in armor. She was stuttering out some sort of explanation and seemed extremely nervous. Moving past that first impression Denre examined her armor; it showed the signs of well kept armor. The faces were polished and the joints well oiled. The woman showed a great deal of ability simply from the way she weighted her footing. Rather than the clumsy stance Denre saw in the untrained masses this woman stood with the confidence of a trained warrior even if her voice did not show it. What an interesting enigma Denre thought to herself. Such an uncertain woman with such honed abilities. How had she come to be accused of such crimes?

Before the woman could manage to stammer out her explanation first Abel, then Xan stepped forward and confessed for the crimes they had committed. This took Denre by surprise. Working in a profession where one had to clean the scum off the face of the earth everyday didn't exactly work wonders for one's faith in the human race. Denre had half expected the pair to simply leave the poor woman to her fate. While Denre hadn't expected such actions she certainly appreciated the sentiment behind them. While she saw little wrong with the actions of Xanthia and the alleged actions of Abel, letting another woman who hadn't committed such crimes take their punishment for them would have been downright wrong. Letting the remaining tension ease out of her muscles Denre released her grip on the knife in her had. This had erased some more of her doubts about joining the expedition. Xan certainly showed herself to be trustworthy in her actions. Jhandel, while secretive and suspicous, only showed his competence from his inability to trust Denre. She understood all too well the implications of her powers and occupation. A trained killer that could hide just about anywhere could make quite the living in a career with less reputable origins.

The following action of the royal guard caught her by an even greater degree of surprise. If any authority came across as an organization that followed by the book adherence to the law it was the royal guard. Letting the two who had committed very obvious crimes go on the bounds of their moral fibre was most unlike the guards Denre was used to dealing with. Maybe it was merely a matter of preconceptions; a scholar and a chef looked much better in the eyes of a guard than a mercenary. She herself had certainly never been offered any special treatment in the past.

Denre was beginning to drift off again when the guard who was inspecting her wounds poked in particularly tender spot of the wound just over her stomach while trying to separate the cloth of the dress from the wound and caused Denre to hiss with pain. When the topic of bringing her to an infirmary was brought up Denre assured the guard that she had already been treated and once the wound was bandaged again she would recover if she rested. Laying her head back Denre waited for one of the guards to return with bandages.
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"Sir, I believe you have the wrong person. Unless she attacked four members of the Royal Guard elsewhere, the rendering unconscious of your soldiers was my doing. They had falsely accused me and drew their weapons. I reacted on instinct. I humbly apologize and will accept any form of punishment, and in doing so, I ask that you release this woman.”

IN THE commotion of getting arrested, Becky forgot all about the three people she'd crashed into (not literally speaking.) The last thing she expected from any of them was to stand up and speak for her, much less take the blame. That's what that man was doing, taking the blame, right? There's no way someone so noble would truly fight with the castle guards. However, Becky thought the man's actions futile and had little hope in either of them being set free. There was still the matter of the female intruder, whom Becky knew she was highly suspect of being. Even she wouldn't have believed her own innocence if it was her acting as the guard.

…I…uh…the break-in was me. If you want proof then here it is. This is Jhandel’s." sighed the woman in a once-lovely dress before handing over a book to the guard acting as commander.

... What? Becky's blue eyes nearly fell out of their sockets. This lady was the true perpetrator of the break in and theft? Not only that, but she was also accomplices with the man who really had knocked two guards unconscious? Becky could hardly believe the two were criminals, even as the evidence was handed over to the acting commander before her eyes. Still, their willingness to step up and be honest instead of letting a patsy like Becky take their place in confinement was admirable. Though Becky was well aware that she'd almost taken the fall for the pair's crimes, she still couldn't find it in her to be persecute them.

"Your crimes are contemptable no doubt but… What a poor omen it would be if I were to forsake forgiveness on a night such as this. Be free of all charges. I will return this to Jhandel in person."


One could hardly blame Becky for being so shocked by the man's words that she kept her hands behind her back long after she was freed from her shackles. Having worked as a guard herself, she could hardly believe that she was being pardoned so easily. Sure, so maybe she wasn't the one who broke into the quarters of a Tourmaline Knight, but she had bruised a fair number in her wild bid to escape arrest. A more mean-spirited part of her wondered if the acting commander had gotten drunk on duty, caught up in the festivities of the night. She did not voice such thoughts out of fear, of course, but perhaps if she were more cruel, she would muster up enough courage to approach the commander to thank him. Instead, she shuffled further and closer, always hanging at the edge of the acting commander's personal space but no closer for fear of acting impertinent.

"Th... thank you very much f-for being so merciful!” Becky blurted out then jogged away in embarrassment so she wouldn't have to suffer hearing the his response. The idea of handing her letter to him to deliver to Jhandel came all too late but odds were that she wouldn't go through with it, hating to impose on anyone a job that was hers to do. Once her heart stopped pounding in her chest, Becky realized that she still had to thank the two who came forward and somehow got her pardoned. She turned to show her gratitude to the pair just in time to catch sight of the woman leaping into the man's arms for a hug. Her mind was made up on thanking them properly for their help, even if it would have to wait for now, so she inched back to a distance respectful of the couple's privacy and rooted herself in place despite her urges to flee as soon and as far as she can.

Trying to not stare at the pair's antics, Becky idly looked over at what else was going on in the garden courtyard. Her eyes were drawn to a medic attending to the second woman who was an experienced fighter by the looks of her toned build. Though now she was obviously the worse for wear judging by the amount of both fresh and dried blood all over her front. When Becky was caught by the unwavering gaze of the woman, she suddenly stiffened for a moment, feeling her heart skip a beat.

Visibly stunned by the way her eyes widened from shock, Becky quickly looked away, glancing all around in search of something to distract herself with. The hard look in the injured woman's eyes had reminded Becky all too well of Master Tierson and how close she'd come to simultaneously failing to complete the mission he gave her and sullying his reputation as his student. Strange as the two looked almost nothing alike, what with the woman's much lighter complexion in contrast to the dark hair of Astato Tierson. Though to be fair, the two did have a wiry build in common, or 'had' in the case of the folk hero who was Becky's teacher.

Becky turned back to the pair, examining the appearance of her saviours as she waited for them to finish their, erm, business with each other. At first glance, the two women appeared alike, notwithstanding Becky's shorter stature. But where wide eyes accentuated the other lady's mature beauty, the same features on Becky made her appear baby-faced. The hair on their heads was similar only in colour; Becky's hung straight and dull but functional and easy to tie up if need be (which was often for someone in her profession of fighting) while her saviour's hair was shorter but wavier and had much more volume. For all the woman's beauty, it was a shame that it was marred by a dress plagued by a ragged hemline here and several scuffs there.

On the other hand, the man was dressed rather... oddly; maybe it was some sort of city fashion? Becky certainly wasn't one to judge, having showed up to Rhakovan's Castle in full armour. The other strange thing about the dark-haired man's appearance were the number of knives at his belt. Or rather, it was the type of knives he had on his belt. The blades of all but one were much too thin to stand a chance in true combat and the only exception was as thick as a sword but shaped something like a cross between the heads of a hammer and an axe (Being unfamiliar with the ways of the professional chef, Becky didn't know such a knife was called a cleaver.) In her eyes as a trained warrior, she found such blades flimsy and couldn't fathom why you would carry around something so unsuited for battle. Then again, the man had confessed to taking out two castle guards so perhaps he was a master of some obscure fighting style that she'd either forgot or hadn't learned from Astato Tierson. At this, Becky grasped for a shortsword and a buckler that weren't there but were left behind in her room at the Lowtown inn. By now she'd grown so antsy from waiting that she went ahead to address the two, in spite of her diffidence.


"A-Ah Sir, Miss, excuse me!" Becky clapped her hands over her mouth with a squeak, startled by the unexpected high volume of her voice as she addressed the man and the woman in his arms. The embarrassment was almost enough to scare her into falling silent again. Eventually Becky settled on bowing stiffly under her armour; not only did such a gesture show her respect for the two, despite nearly being arrested for their crimes but it also allowed her to hide her flushed face as she turned it to the ground. Huh, the lady's ankles were quite scratched up underneath her ripped hemline. Perhaps Becky could show her gratitude by calling a medic over, or would that be too much? She was never good with social cues. "I-I'm sorry for interrupting you. Pl-please don't mind me if you w-want to keep going, I could just come back later whenever you're free, it's fine, I can-- wait, I mean-- Erm...”

Becky rose to stand up straight, her cheeks red as ever though her eyes remained trained on the ground. Her breastplate clanged against her pauldrons as her chest expanded then deflated from the deep breath she took. Once she was calm and, she sunk into another low bow, this time looking more dignified than panicked. "Thank you very much for your help. Pl-please allow me to repay you, I'll do whatever it takes."

“'Scuse me, if I could interrupt?” Becky looked towards her right to find the very same guard who had not only met her at the gate when she first arrived but had also apprehended just minutes earlier. She all but shrank under the suspicious look he was sending from over his nose. Obviously he didn't agreed with his acting commander's decision to let three criminals off the hook so easily but wasn't in any position to protest; chain of command and all that. The guard then stopped glaring at Becky long enough to address the trio of troublemakers at once. “I know the captain's let you off the hook and all but it's still important that we write a report on this incident. So, if I could have your names?”

“Oh, um, I'm Carver-- I mean, Becky Carver! B-Becky Carver is my full name.” Reddening over her verbal blunder, Becky meekly looked back at the ground while the guard scribbled down the name she gave him onto some paper with a stick of charcoal on hand. Once finished, he turned the paper over so that Becky could confirm that he wrote her name down correctly, which she did with a small nod, eyes still turned downwards. Then the guard turned to Abel and Xanthia. "And you two would be?"

Hey, just what are you doing here reading this?~fin.
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“…I…uh…the break-in was me,” she sighed. “If you want proof then here it is. This is Jhandel’s.”

ABEL SIGHED as Xanthia spoke of her little adventure into Jhandel's quarters. He had spoken up about rendering the two guards unconscious in order to protect the unnamed female. He did not expect or need Xanthia to admit to breaking and entering. Well, at least now when they arrested him, he would have a cellmate that he could actually enjoy talking to. What better bonding time for them then sitting next to one another in the dungeons downstairs? That was assuming they would be able to have bonding time, after the abrupt break-off that Xanthia had been so sweet to grant them. That kiss had come so close to becoming real. And the shapeshifter had to come around the corner just then and ruin everything. He wasn't trying to be bitter. But... No, wait. Yes, he was. He was being bitter.

"What a poor omen it would be if I were to forsake forgiveness on a night such as this. Be free of all charges. I will return this to Jhandel in person." Huh. That was a surprise. He hadn't exactly expected to be pardoned for his crime. Or hers, for that matter. Xanthia stole. He assaulted two guards in the castle in an area he shouldn't have been in. And they were going to just let them go with a warning? He wasn't complaining though, it was a small blessing that had come their way. The guard addressed Xanthia once more after that, though Abel wasn't paying enough attention to hear what he had said. His mind was elsewhere, in places it should not be wandering. He left hand rose and touched his right bicep, gripping it slightly. Taltherion, huh? I wonder.

The brief moment of stillness as the guards left, but it was only that. Brief. He barely had time to take a short breath before it was knocked out of him as Xanthia leapt onto Abel and embraced him. He was taken aback for a moment, seeing as how the last time they were this close, she ran off on him in a critical moment. No, he was probably not going to ever let her live that down. But as she returned to his arms, he couldn't help but to embrace her. It was not as... shall we say, passionate and emotional as the one had been before when it was just them in the moonlight. He wrapped his arms around Xanthia's waist and returned her hug. His lips rested on her forehead and pursed one time to give a small kiss on her forehead. It wasn't as satisfying as the one they would have had, should have had, beforehand, but it was all he was going to get at the time being and he was going to take it without complaining. Too much. "You owe me."

He felt a single pair of eyes watching them, and as he glanced up he caught sight of the unnamed female they had taken the fall for still watching them. She was scrutinizing them, and her eyes lingered on him for a bit longer than he would have liked. Was she... judging his appearance? Well, that was rude. He actually thought he looked good, all things considered. Especially considering that this woman did not belong in Rhakovan's Castle and still showed up wearing armour. "A-Ah Sir, Miss, excuse me!" Her hands flew up to her mouth for a moment with a squeak. Her face flushed a bit and she dropped into a bow. Polite or hiding her embarrassment? Or both? "I-I'm sorry for interrupting you. Pl-please don't mind me if you w-want to keep going, I could just come back later whenever you're free, it's fine, I can-- wait, I mean-- Erm..." Did she always stutter this much? Abel could understand being a bit nervous, but this was like a child addressing someone important. If she was a guard, he hoped that her skill with a blade did not match her skill in proper speaking. She bowed once more, a bit more confident than she was beforehand. "Thank you very much for your help. Pl-please allow me to repay you, I'll do whatever it takes."

Abel lifted one of his hands from the small of Xanthia's back and held it up towards the woman. "There's nothing to thank us for. We were simply admitting to crimes that we had committed, nothing more. I don't see it as fair if you were punished for such crimes that you had nothing to do with." His hand returned to Xanthia's back as his eyes wandered up to the heavens and examined the stars above them. "There's enough injustice in this world without us adding to it. That being said, don't work too hard on trying to repay us. There's no need to--"

“Scuse me, if I could interrupt?” Abel looked to the left of the woman and saw the same guard that had apprehended her had returned. He came very close to throwing something at that man. One thing Abel could not stand, aside from wasting food, was being interrupted while he was speaking. Very rarely did he ever interrupt people when they spoke. Unless it was like that man in his restaurant yesterday. The guard looked from the woman over to Xanthia and Abel, which came with a suspicious feel to it. He obviously didn't like the fact that his acting commander let them go. Well, tough. He wasn't the commanding officer. Follow orders and go away. “I know the captain's let you off the hook and all but it's still important that we write a report on this incident. So, if I could have your names?”

“Oh, um, I'm Carver-- I mean, Becky Carver! B-Becky Carver is my full name.” The woman, Becky Carver, flushed once again. Becky Carver... He felt as though he had known that name from somewhere. He's never traveled beyond the borders of Zenithis, so unless she had come to the capital before, it was unlikely that he had ever met her in person. But the name sounded familiar regardless. From many years ago. Why, though? He kept repeating the name over and over in his mind, trying to recall the memory of where he had heard the name. He got nothing from his efforts.

"And you two would be?"

Abel came back to reality and looked at the man who had turned his attention to Xanthia and him. He released her and turned, now facing the guard properly. "And what do you need our names for, may I ask? I've seen many incidents outside of the castle that had been handled by the knights and names were never taken for reports. And personally, I'd like to keep it that way." One thing about Abel that people probably should learn was that, especially because he was a Sous-Chef and all, he was stubborn. He wasn't one to just comply with someone's orders. In cooking, you have to have a sort of "what the hell" kind of attitude and run with things. He understood the guard was probably just doing his job, but he still felt a bit rebellious at the moment. Actually, the guard probably wasn't doing his job. More than likely, there would be no report written on this, unless it was to go to someone higher than the guard who pardoned their crimes. This was to get their names and do some research on them.

"As I stated before, we need to write a report on this incident, which is why we require your names. I am not sure how things are handled outside of these walls, but in here, we write reports on everything." The guard was obviously annoyed with Abel's unwillingness to give up his name. His eyes examined Abel more thoroughly as he waited for a name, which wasn't coming. In his examination, he caught sight of something on Abel's back. The knives. Almost immediately, his hand went to the hilt of his sword. "I am also going to ask you to surrender those knives you have with you and give me your name, or I shall have no choice but to take you in.

Not this again... "I wouldn't recommend trying that. Two of your buddies already tried and look how they ended up. You're free to try, though." He felt another set of eyes on him. Not the guard's and not Becky's. He sighed. Xanthia was staring at him, and it was probably with that incredulous stare she had given him earlier when he had threatened to beat the hell out of whoever it was that had made her cry. Which he still owed Denre a talking to. His shoulders slouched a bit and he looked back to the guard. Sometimes, Xanthia's talent for ruining his rebellious fun was such a downer. "My name is Abel Brynhildr, the Sous-Chef of Quixote. I was granted access with my knives because I was meant to attend the banquet tonight and cook for the Royal Family, though I was late in my arrival and was unable to do so. The knives were approved by the guards at the front gate, and seeing as how they were specially made for me and quite expensive, I will not surrender them. Now, you have my name. Are we done here?"

.:OOC: s**t post. Sorry.:.
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Xanthia's embrace caught Abel with surprise and nearly knocked him over. There was a brief moment of emptiness, like she was hugging a statue. As his hands finally came her waist she noticed the numbness in her ear lobes, brought upon by the chill of the Queen’s garden. Xanthia swayed arbitrarily and briefly before Abel bestowed a gentle kiss on her forehead but something was missing. Perhaps it was merely the chill of the garden but nonetheless his touch seemed not as warm as it had before. A gentle breeze swept across her exposed calves and evoked goose bumps everywhere across her body.

“You owe me.”


A shiver snaked up her spine at Abel’s first word and for a moment Xanthia blushed with the embarrassment that the shiver made it look like she over-reacted. Indeed, his words had not come with surprise. She knew and wouldn’t forget. The image of the Magnolia sparked in her mind and like an instinct the muscles of her hand twitched in the guidance of a phantom pen. In an instant Xanthia knew she could make it up to Abel and knew exactly how. Almost inaudibly, she whispered that promise.

“…k”


A squeak pierced the air and for a moment, Xanthia feared it had been her own. As Abel removed a hand from the small of her back, the air seeped in like a cool liquid. There had been warmth in his touch after all. She smiled, first at this and then at the stumbling words of the armored girl who had nearly taken the fall for her crime. The magnitude of her gratuity was amusing all on its own but the girl hardly had to finish a sentence before the gig lost its edge. She was almost feeling like some sort of dictator that had to be appeased or worse, like she was just another high-brow at the banquet. Xanthia urged to interrupt, to cut short the girl’s unnecessary pleasantry and to show her through simple welcoming that she was not some sort of monster. Indeed, that armor was clearly not from around Zenithis and she felt an ambassador’s responsibility to undo whatever fearful impressions this newcomer had. In a perky manner Xanthia hopped at the warrior’s bow and introduced herself gregariously, hoping that her outgoingness would relax the stuttering traveler.

“Hi! I’m Xanthia Vetyz.”
, she bounced. Her efforts, however, seemed to have little or perhaps even the opposite effect as she intended. Xanthia considered how someone shy could be pushed even further towards introversion by a forceful personality. It seemed perfectly reasonable. Reason, though, did not seem to be at the forefront of the woman’s mind when she continued with her stuttering praise.

Pl-please allow me to repay you, I'll do whatever it takes."


…Anything?, Xanthia thought. The proposal was almost offensive but Xanthia garnered only amusement from it. Her smile widened as she contemplated the sheer number of absurdities she could request with such an offer. Obviously the woman was nervous and uncomfortable but still Xanthia was left wondering. Had she really meant that? If so, how could you ever owe someone so much for so little…or for anything, really? She bit her lip and wished to ask, but before she could speak Abel spoke what was necessary; namely, that this woman owed nothing. Xanthia nodded subtlety in agreement the whole time and took the moment to size her up carefully.

Timid yet so strong. Xanthia could see it easily through the woman’s large and widened eyes. It was an interesting demeanor if not only for that contradiction alone but there was more. As she had noticed before, the armor lacked any of the insignias of the guard. That in itself raised a regiment of questions. Where did she hail from? Why was she here? Indeed, how had she managed to even attend the banquet? Where did she even get access to such armor? She must have had quite the connections but that deduction hardly brought any progress towards understanding the enigmatic figure. If she had the connections then why did the guards so easily accuse her and why did she have such a problem speaking in a formal situation? The interruption of the guard freed Xanthia from the mystery.

“I know the captain's let you off the hook and all but it's still important that we write a report on this incident. So, if I could have your names?”


Xanthia hunched. The captain’s speech had been so thoughtful, so admirable, and so charitable as to leave even a stone with a warm feeling at heart. Couldn’t they just leave it at that? She sighed with annoyance and accepted the insensitivity of the menial. The armored woman unsurprisingly gave to the guard’s request without question but Abel rebelled. He put forth a very valid argument and Xanthia agreed. She might have even supported him fully but for now she was exhausted. So much had happened. Not just today but yesterday also and between the two she had probably spanned the entire spectrum of emotions. So much had happened and for once Xanthia felt no desire for any more excitement.

Abel obviously had a different view. His words sharpened against the guard whose looped arguement was starting to make him sound like a street side herald. The goose bumps returned as the fiery men exchanged threats and when Xanthia could take no more she stepped away from the both of them. A snowflake landed upon her eyelash as if the dead Queen her wept. Indeed, the peaceful sanctuary was no place for violence but even if they had been in a death pit, Xanthia was exhausted and would have no more of this. She couldn’t stare down the guard but she could certainly guilt Abel with quiet disapproval. She did so and he cooled, but with a disapproval all of his own before letting up his name to the guard.

After scribbling down Abel’s name the guard raised his head and looked expectantly towards Xanthia. She hesitated. The fact her parents were long accustomed to her troubled dealings with the authorities meant little and they would be especially angry to hear her latest shenanigan happened during the royal banquet. The punishment for this was uncertain so Xanthia thought it best to at least try to bluff a pseudonym. As guarded lifted an eyebrow and leaned in slightly, she stuttered the first thing to come to mind.

“So-jowskani…lia…Hormenshoffle…er”


Even she could not discern what long lost memory or inspiration the name had compiled itself from. Xanthia wanted to giggle but for some reason retained hope that the guard would blindly scrawl down the name; hope that was crushed the instant he smirked with a giggle of his own.

“Right. Why don’t I just write down Xanthia Vetyz for short?”


Xanthia frowned and waited for the opportune moment to childishly stick out her tongue at the guard while he wasn’t looking. It had been worth a try. Besides, even if the guard had believed it there would still be a thorough interrogation when she got home regarding the state of her dress. Err, she groaned inside her head. Another one. Two dresses in two days – she was certainly on a roll and a brief glance downwards confirmed what the chill on her legs had been nagging for minutes now. She certainly wouldn’t be fixing this one on her own. Pants from now on, Xanthia resolved. Such wear would be much more accommodating of her vigorous mischief and frankly, who cared for appearances? The only reason she had been dressing like this was because of the high-class norms and her parents demanded it. Though Xanthia would rarely allowed herself to be pushed around by mere conventions, she sheathed any resistance out of respect. Respect for the Rhakovans? No. It was respect for her father and the realization that he was never one to challenge the royal authority. Save for that one time.

Xanthia yawned. So many questions to ask but she found herself prying her eyes open from every blink. The brisk air seemed to be the only thing keeping her awake. Becky Carver – she would have to remember that name. For now, though, there would be plenty of questions to answer herself when she got home. After a few quick good-byes, she gravitated towards the warm air of the building and asked Abel to walk her home.
Cassandra Voorhees's avatar

Gracious General

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ςгเtเςคl єשєภt
END OF PROLOGUE


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                          AS THE night's enchantment ebbed into the empty dawn, taking with it the power of Taltherion's moon, a moment of silence settled across the city. It was solemn, like the quiet of an ancient library or the still church bells in the hours of remembrance. Draped over the shuttered houses, lamps without their fires, it was a stifling thing full of uncertainty and nervous anticipation. There was a shuddering breath on the wind though it was quickly swallowed long before it could rouse the sleeping citizens of Zenithis.

                          Few were awake to witness this beautiful, this dreadful, red-orange fire of twilight. Fewer still were those that understood the nigh imperceptible shuffling of the heavenly bodies, stars that vanished behind the growing crimson flood. It was the same dawn that greeted the Empire every day, not a second delay to mark its passing significance, and yet Archbishop Theitos was amongst those who watched the sky with diligence beyond what his office required of him. But he had his reasons, as did his fellow kinsmen, to endure the unbearable silence of pre-day. Because of all the tasks the Ever Perceptive Prince Notras il'Telcor Rhakovan of Tourmaline had commanded of them, this one weighed most heavily on their shoulders for its sheer simplicity.

                          The Archbishop unwound from his wrist the string of fifteen glass beads --seven of the coldest shades like a forest at night, seven of brilliant lightness like the morning sun, the last a churning clear thing that could not decide which colour suited it best --that represented, for all their material limitations, the Fifteen of the Godking's pantheon. He sighed tiredly, holding his faith against his chest as if they too weighed as heavily as the prince's knowledge. Whatever possessed Notras to ask this of him he believed he would learn in due time, though for now he would count the stars as he had always counted them, thousands upon thousands of instances before.

                          He looked first at the points beside the red halo piercing the fog of grey twilight. There he noted the two closest to the Godking and the two quickest to be consumed; he closed his hand over the beads and recited their names. The Archbishop repeated this over until he ran to the end of his string, his familiarity with the practice so perfect that he hadn't needed to look, with his eyes or his hands, where each bead was in their unique order. A deep relief took him; he would not admit it, for doing so would be to question the permanence of the gods, but the prince's request had left in him a sliver of doubt. He closed his eyes, solemn, wondering why he expected any difference this morning when it had been the same for thousands before.

                          He turned his back to the sun, made to walk back into his castle and report to his prince that nothing, like he said, was amiss. The Archbishop smiled sadly, pity for Notras --delusional, self-obsessed, prophecy-burdened prince --shining clearly in this solitude. He shook the beads in his closed fists, reminding himself who held the gods favour, before quietly opening his fingers to peer at them once more in their familiarity.

                          A wetness he hadn't noticed earlier ran down his arm to pool at the sleeve fabric by his elbows as he lifted the beads to the light of Godking Erenil. He watched his reflections move on the cool surfaces of the glass, a kind of half-daze freezing his thoughts to where they threatened to make reason. In the centre of his hands lay the orb that knew not which colour to take, bleeding a most violent crimson that soon drowned the lustre of the others. The Archbishop made a strangled noise, dropping the beads as if they had cut him and it was his blood coating his hands.

                          Long forgotten were the words of his most gracious King, words that only hours ago spoke of peace and gentle times. He fought to bring to mind what face Rhakovan XIV wore when he addressed the people that night, and another whimper escaped his throat as he realized he could not picture the old man he had called King for seventy-three years. All he could see, through a haze of angry red, was the solemn figure of the prince watching the world as if he knew already the events to come.

                          Solemn for the guilt he was to bear, for knowing he would cause the realms to weep once more. The morning, as if both pitying the prince too and wishing dearly to please him, remained silent until Notras rose from his darkened chambers and covered his mortal body with the Rhakovan green.



                          OOC :: Next up: Jhandel's post. Chapter One is open for those who wish to post their morning activities. Otherwise, expect to be greeted early by a messenger summoning you into Jhan's presence. From here on out, chapters and chapter lengths will be decidedly more player driven. You won't see nearly as much background content crammed into such a short period of time (thankfully, I think xD ). The foundation is ready for you guys to play on.
Cassandra Voorhees's avatar

Gracious General

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                                                        WHEN THE Lady Lordamaine had left him at last to the silence of the sickroom, the sleeping hunter his only other company, Jhandel lifted himself from the floor. He stretched slowly, loosening the kinks that had formed in his muscles as he knelt for an indeterminate number of hours beside Nero. The weakness in his legs and the pressure behind his eyes were familiar enough; one morning of silent vigil was hardly something beyond his abilities, hardly something he had not done before. He sighed deeply, bone-weary and longing for the companionship of his prince. For however much of a demon sparkled behind those dark, scheming eyes, for however many hundreds of hurts he endured in place of his prince, Notras had always been there to wake him.

                                                        Jhandel walked until his knees touched the bed frame, stepping lightly in case the hunter had finally shaken off the effects of the sedative. He looked onwards with sympathy, though his gaze lacked any form of pity. Nero was a soldier, named by the Empire or not. For living through an encounter with a beast of corruption, defeating it even as the knight suspected he had done, he deserved more respect than Jhandel had given to him before. It was more than he ever accomplished, his last meeting with the dark creatures having left him broken and bleeding and wholly in debt to the individuals that protected his body while he recovered. Grim thoughts, but he was now more sure in his confidence in bringing the hunter with him.

                                                        Jhandel clasped his hands together and bowed his head, pressing his lips to his knuckles. In the darkness he prayed for clarity, for strength of mind, and for understanding. He had no way of telling how affected by the taint Nero was, and no way of knowing until he asked how the man would cope with the memories, but the knight extended his prayers anyway. Rothaelim, the merciless judge of ignorance, protected well those that followed his creed and those whose forgiveness was ransomed most sincerely.

                                                        He left the sickroom feeling only marginally better, greeted by the silence of pre-dawn. After the activity brought in by the injured archer, a dull thrum of exhaustion lingered in the air. Jhandel passed only one Grey Guard on his way out of the House of Healing, though that one was enough. He beckoned for the cloaked man to follow him and, like the healers earlier, the guard obliged despite Jhandel's lack of authority in this sphere.


                                                        "Westrion," Jhandel said, addressing the guard by the collective name of his division, "How fares your brother?" They were leaving the area watched over by the West Wall when the guard, quiet as they were, gave him a gentle shrug barely visible under the heavy grey cloak.

                                                        "He breathes, Lord Knight. It is the best we can say for him now." Westrion peered at Jhandel from under the shadow of his hood, wordlessly questioning how much knowledge he held on the thing afflicting his kinsman. The knight knew an appraisal when he felt one --being in the close company of one with the moniker of The Ever Perceptive had taught him well --but if he was offended he did not show it. Jhandel merely straightened his shoulders and walked on.

                                                        "Taltherion have mercy on this suffering man."

                                                        The rest of the trip back to the palace was completed in silence save for a brief moment when Jhandel commanded the Westrion to summon for him the members of his expedition. He hadn't needed to name names, or even specify where he wished the people to meet him, knowing full well it was no accident this guard found him first in the morning. They would find the knight in the great throne room of Rhakovan's castle, the only place in the entire city Jhandel felt safe to speak in.

                                                        Alone again, he made his way to the Rhakovan's wing, passing the door to his room without a second thought and missing the subtle displacement in the air that said something had happened here earlier. Jhandel was tired, so very tired, that his mere presence chased away all the attendants that would have otherwise rushed to assist him. It was a state the castle hands had seen only a few times, especially considering the infrequency of this knight's visits to Zenithis, but they understood when a man wished for solitude.

                                                        Jhandel entered the Rhakovan's private bath with just enough elegance to pass the inspection of the two statue-like guards that barred entrance to all who were not of the Royal House. As soon as the door shut behind him, feet obscured by rolling steam, the knight dropped all pretence. He peeled from his shoulders the Rhakovan green his prince had bade him to wear, caring not to fold the sacred article as he left each piece of clothing scattered on the ground in a trail leading to the square pool of clear, burning water. Around its rim glowed silvery runes, carved deep into the white marble, that shimmered when he passed his feet over them. Jhandel, needing no more persuasion, slipped into the heat and asked the steam to cover him.

                                                        The waters burned his skin and he hissed, reflexively turning to look at his body where the pain was most pronounced. He wished he hadn't. The room dragged from him what little colour he had, turning his flesh a pale white and highlighting for him each unnatural line, each bloody scar that marred his body. Worst of all was the sickly grey splashed across his chest, a halo surrounding skin puckered and red though the wound had closed years ago. A shudder passed through his frame and he sobbed, once, though the sound scared him enough to throw him deeper into the water.

                                                        He sank, holding his head under, ignoring the fire that spread through his lungs, begging him to breathe. His body tensed, as if wanting to cry, but the waters did their job and seared the weakness from his bones. Oh did it ever hurt. But unlike the pains that had been dealt to him, the ones that plague him constantly and left him wondering when he would break, this was self-inflicted. His desire to shy away was replaced by indignation and he hammered his fear into anger. This was not who he was. This was not how he wished to be remembered.

                                                        He breached the water surface with his head, pulling in a great steadying breath. He left his shoulders submerged now that the waters seemed more pleasant than punishing. Jhandel dared try a smile in the lonely room though it slipped as quickly as the drops off his hair when he picked from the direction of the door the sound of metal clattering against stone. It was light, no weighty presence like a sword, though heavy enough to break the enchantment of the room. His dagger. The knight, blessed with this new clarity, leaned back against the edge of the pool and turned his gaze to the intruder, willing his eyes to pierce the floating steam.


                                                        "What emergency protects you from my wrath, intruder? I believe I had made it clear I do not wish to be disturbed," Jhandel's voice cut through the haze, cold and clear. The other one, tasked to relay a message, did not shake at receiving such a harsh welcoming. The knight smiled. Likely, the poor woman had dealt with worse from the prince and was more than aptly prepared to ignore his posturing.

                                                        "Captain Murin of the Royal Guard wishes to speak to you, Lord Jhandelis. If I may be so bold, it is of importance greater than your bath," the woman returned in a flat monotone and he could almost see her bored frown disapprove of him. Jhandel, appalled at first, soon broke down into peels of laughter. Since the death of the queen there had not been many females working in the Rhakovan's private quarters, though he knew at once why Notras had kept this one around. She had nerve. And it was so very refreshing to know that he could command respect from one and receive admonishment from the same person within a single blink of the eye.

                                                        "Tell him he will have his audience with me shortly. Unless, of course, he would prefer to deliver his message as I am now without my noble armour and symbols of authority." The knight laughed again, feeling for all the world a renewed person.

                                                        Behind the fog the woman bowed, smiling her own secret smile that resembled too much like the one Lady Lordamaine wore.
Temporarily Schizophrenic's avatar

Versatile Streaker

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DAWN HAD come much sooner than he had expected it to. It felt as though he had only fallen asleep perhaps less than an hour ago. His body was slightly stiff, and all he wanted was to pull the covers back over his head and fall back asleep. Actually, that was a perfect idea. Until Erionelle knocked on his door with a "Mom and Dad want to see you." Good thing he was awake. Abel stared out the window of his room into the red-orange sunrise. Last night, he had never gotten the chance to actually meet with Jhandel. Taking out the guards outside of his bedroom and dancing with Xanthia and saving Becky from imprisonment all seemed to have taken priority. That and being freaked out by Zan--Iahelia a few more times. He had seen her once more when he was walking Xanthia home, and he did his best to avoid her. Not that that had happened.

Iahelia approached the two of them and started asking why he had acted so strangely towards her. Yet again, he did not answer. It was not a subject he was particularly fond of bringing up. Instead, he merely promised to explain at a later time and kindly asked if she would excuse them as he and Xanthia were quite tired and ready to retire. Arms linked, he walked Xanthia back to her home, where her father was waiting. Oh, her father. This was a wonderful sight for him to behold. As if seeing his daughter linking arms with Abel was not bad enough, he watched Abel hug her and kiss her cheek at the door when he said good night. Her father had a few choice words to say, but he couldn't remember them to save his life. By the time he had reached her home, he was dead tired and ready to lean against a wall and sleep there. But he managed to get home, said goodnight to his family, and retired to his room where he immediately fell asleep after removing his outfit.

He rubbed his eyes and sat up, throwing his legs over the edge of his bed. Stiff no longer described how his body felt. All his joints ached. He must've slept wrong. A roll of his shoulders brought along painful pops that relieved him some of his stiffness. He stood and made his way to his window, grabbing the simple pair of black sleepwear pants he had meant to put on last night. No wonder his legs were a bit cold. He slid them on and, once again, gazed into the sunrise. It was beautiful. The way the clouds that lingered seemed to part for the oncoming sun. He felt warm, looking at it. Very warm. A little too warm. He flinched a bit as his hand shot up to his right bicep, gripping it tightly. The burn scar on his arm felt as though it were burning once again, as it had been for awhile. Ever since he could remember, his arm would burn like this every now and again. As time passed and he aged, it began to happen more frequently. Once or twice a month now -- sometimes even more than that. He had no recollection of where he had gotten it from. Adelle had told him once that it was on his arm when they had found him. It was also the reason why his surname was not Quixote like the rest of his family. The burn was in the shape of a unicursal hexagram with a few strange symbols on each point. In the center of the hexagram was the name "Brynhildr". They didn't know what it meant, but chose to keep it as his name. They're a strange family.

He left the window and grabbed a shirt from one of his drawers as he made his way down the stairs. He pulled it over his head as he reached the bottom and took in the sight before him. Marx, Adelle, and Erionelle all sat around the table with a man that he didn't recognize. Instinctively, he was immediately put into a state of alert and walked with caution, ready to beat down anyone and everyone that he didn't know. Was this about last night with the guards? They said he had been free of all charges. Of course, that didn't mean they had let it go. But as he approached, his eyes darting at every corner to look for any unwelcomed guests, he finally took in the sight of the fourth individual. He was not dressed as a guard or a knight. He was dressed somewhat casually, actually. Well, casually for those who lived within the castle walls. Instead of a sword, he had a leather satchel at his side. And in his hand, he held an envelope sealed with the mark of the Rhakovans. A messenger?

"Oh, Abel. You're awake." Adelle stood and greeted her son with a kiss on the cheek. One glance at Abel told her he was concerned about who their guest was. "This is Antony, a messenger from the castle."

Abel raised an eyebrow. "Messenger? Why would they be sending a messenger to us."

At this point, the messenger stood from his chair. Again, Abel was prepared for a fight. He never had military training or anything, but growing up with the chefs of Quixote, you had to be ready for anything. Each and every one of them were tough. Sinners. And they taught him to be cautious of everything. But the messenger merely held out the envelope he had in his hand. "I come with a message from Sir Jhandel Koven. He wishes that you read this letter and seek him out as soon as you are able." He quickly bowed his head to the Quixotes. "I apologize for the intrusion and appreciate your hospitality. Good day to you all." The man scampered out the door quickly, disappearing into the early morning light.

"What a strange little man," Erionelle chimed in with her father nodding his agreement. Then all eyes were on Abel with the letter in his hand. He broke the wax seal and opened the envelope, pulling out the well written letter it contained inside. His eyes worked their way through the letter, taking in each and every word. When he finished, he folded the letter back into the envelope and put it down on the table without a word. Erionelle pushed for the answer they were looking for. "Well?"

Abel's eyes lifted to his sister, then glanced to his mother and father. They knew. He knew they knew. But they still wanted to hear it anyways. Sir Koven wants me on the expedition. Apparently, my reputation at Quixote and the incident last night caught his attention. He wants to see me this morning."

"Incident?" Marx asked. The messenger hadn't told them? Well, it was in the letter so they would have found out anyways.

"I took out two guards that mistook me for an assassin and drew their weapons on me. It was instinct."

Erionelle and Adelle both wore looks of disbelief and worry about what repercussions his actions could bring to them. Marx simply laughed. "I figured you had gotten into some mischief when he showed up at our door. And I had a feeling you would be going, so I had something made for you to help with your journey." He motioned to Erionelle and Adelle, who went into a small closet and brought back the most beautiful and deadly looking pair of gauntlets and greaves he had ever seen. They were black and silver, and long enough to go to his elbows and knees. They looked heavy, but seeing as how easily Adelle and Erionelle moved them, he knew they had to be light in weight. Certain parts on the greaves, as well as the elbows and knuckles of the gauntlets, were crafted with small spikes, designed to cause massive damage. The only part more dangerous than the knuckles are the fingertips, which were designed to be more like claws. And on one of the gauntlets, engraved on the side, was the name "Pandora".

"Where did you possibly get these?" Abel asked, never taking his eyes off of them.

"Oh, let's just say a certain Royal Blacksmith owed me a huge favor."

Abel lifted his gaze to his father, his lips twitching to form a smile. A sincere smile. "Thank you so much. All of you. I can't imagine how much this could have cost..."

"Oh, don't worry. We actually borrowed the money from you, since you're going on a journey and all." Adelle smiled, and started laughing with her daughter at Abel's expression. The worst part about her comment was that if it was true, he was going to be next to broke for the journey.

They all laughed together for awhile while they ate breakfast, enjoying what may be their last time together. He got ready in the recently washed outfit that he wore yesterday, as it was his journey outfit and they may have been leaving that day. His family packed what he would need for the journey as he slipped into his new armour-weapons. After a few tear-filled goodbyes, he grabbed his bag and left his home, making peace with the fact that he may never see it again, and headed immediately for Xanthia's home. No doubt she was being summoned this morning to meet with Jhandel as well. May as well go together.

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