Between Fire and Purity (Yuuki_Tatsunohi and FlourPower)

Discussion in 'THREAD ARCHIVES' started by Yuuki_Tatsunohi, Jan 15, 2016.

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    • Based off this roleplay

      In a land where humans can turn into fantastic creatures, there are two kingdoms: A Dragon Kingdom and a Unicorn Kingdom. The Dragon and Unicorn lands are at war with each other, with their royalties at the very center. When war strikes and the two young monarchs are stranded in the Badlands, can they overcome their conflicts and work together to get back home?

    • Acraesil
      A continent divided into seven countries. All of its citizens can turn into a mythical being of their own free will.

      Current Ruler: Empress Kuzunoha
      Transformation: Kitsune
      Colors: Red, Gold, White

      Current Ruler: Alpha Cerberus, in conjunction with his brother Beta Barguest and sister, Beta Shuck.
      Transformation: Hellhound
      Colors: Black, red and green

      Current Ruler: Queen Pardo
      Animal transformation: Hippocamp
      Colors: Blue, green and purple

      Current Ruler: Tsar Nikvgh
      Transformation: Bears
      Colors: White, light blue and pink

      Current Ruler: Sultan Behnam and Sultana Zareen
      Transformation: Griffin
      Colors: Brown, gold and white

      Current Ruler: King Finnian
      Transformation: Dragons
      Colors: Green, yellow and white

      Current Ruler: Queen Nissa
      Transformation: Unicorns
      Colors: Violet, sky blue and white​

    • King Finnian, The Dragon King


      Queen Nissa, The Unicorn Queen


    • Empress Kuzunoha

      Tsar Nikvgh

      Sultan Behnam

      Sultana Zareen

      Alpha Cerberus

      Beta Shuck
      Beta Barguest

      Queen Pardo

      Loretta (Eleria)

      Gilroy (Kuron)

      Reagan (Kuron)

      Soldier (Kuron)

      Loretta's Uncle (Eleria)

    Finnian, 23
    It was nighttime in the continent of Acraesil. A waning moon could be seen on the horizon, watching over the seven countries: Caprinus, Eleria, Kuron, Ursa, Tamana, Lamass, and Gar. In the moonlit sky, one could see five different traveling carriages, making their way to Eleria, a country inhabited by the Unicorns. This evening was going to be a special night. Tonight was the annual Acraesil Peace Ball and this year, Eleria had the honor of hosting the event. The ball would be held in Crystalkeep Palace, the current residence of Eleria's current ruler, Queen Nissa. Guards stood at the gates of Crystalkeep receiving the royal monarchs of each country as they arrived to proudly represent their country.

    From the waters of the southern gulf of Caprinus came the blue carriage of the Hippocamp. A black carriage from Gar was drawn by massive hellhounds followed, a ghostly trail in its wake. From Ursa in the north came the Bears, the royal family riding in a carriage made entirely of ice. An elegant red carriage came from the Tomona in the far west, carrying the Kitsunes. The Griffins were the only ones to not arrive in a carriage, the king and queen opting to fly from Lamass in their griffin forms accompanied by a small group of their escorts.

    The last to arrive was the Dragons from Kuron. Like the Griffins, they also came from the sky, their king riding a carriage less elegant compared to the others, but it still served its purpose. The carriage landed smoothly in front of Crystalkeep, the dragons reverting back to their human forms and opening the door. A young man of twenty-three years stepped out, adjusting his green and gold suit. His name is Finnian, known as the Albino Dragon due to his ghostly features. A very young king, Finnian had just recently inherited the throne after the unfortunate and untimely death of the previous Queen, Darcelle, his beloved older sister. Locally, it was a hasty transition between the two siblings but successful nonetheless. And by convenience, the Ball would serve as his official introduction to the international community, while at the same time, giving his court an opportunity to investigate . . . other matters. One in particular very personal.

    "Are you ready, my King?" asked one of his escorts, handing him the green mask he is to wear today.

    "As ready as I'll ever be," he glanced at the palace, the pristine castle elegantly decorated with various flowers and candle lights. It almost looked the castle was glowing. It was something that could rival the castle of the Bears. "Shall we proceed?" he tilted his head towards Crystalkeep, leading his entourage inside.
    #1 Yuuki_Tatsunohi, Jan 15, 2016
    Last edited: May 24, 2016
  1. [​IMG]
    Nissa, 26
    Within the walls of Crystal Keep, Queen Nissa paced listlessly in her chambers. The fabric of her gown swished softly as it dragged along the floor. The white silk made a sound like waves against the shore. Around her servants huddled nervously, afraid to interrupt their mistress from whatever thoughts she had fallen into, but all too aware of the time. At least she was already dressed for the ball. And her hair was all done up as well in an elaborate coif. Even her jewelry had been affixed . Now if only the queen would leave her chambers. Their dilemma was solved when a knock came at the door and a woman swept in. "Lady Queen. Surely you don't plan to miss your own ball?" The newcomer drawled.

    Drawn as if from a long sleep, Nissa shook herself and a sheepish smile came over her face. "I don't suppose that is an option?" Nissa teased. Still a hint of worry crept into her voice. The newcomer stepped forward to take the queen's hands and gave a radiant smile.

    "If only that was possible. Unfortunately I do believe you have guests waiting on you." Nissa found herself near blinded by her friend's smile. Dutchess Loretta Sevione was notorious for her beauty. Nissa- with her ivory skin and inky tresses could normally be considered pretty. But she was plain in comparison to her oldest friend. Most women were. Loretta was bewitching. After a moment's more hesitation, Nissa nodded. Relief swept through the servants and they returned to their last minute preparations. One timid young thing hurried over to hand the queen her mask.

    Nissa took it with a gracious smile and carefully affixed it so as not to disturb her hair. Loretta linked an arm through hers, giving it a reassuring squeeze. "You'll be marvelous." The brunette said, as if she was absolutely sure of it. Nissa only nodded. This ball was incredibly important. Many often underestimated such events as tasteless displays of wealth, all for show. In truth, these gatherings were essential. Alliances were made and broken, revolutions born and wars waged all from behind a lady's fan. She had to be at her very best tonight, among these vipers disguised as nobility.​
    #2 FlourPower, Jan 15, 2016
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2016
  2. The palace was marvelous. Pristine, it showed how well this palace was kept, and how much work was put in to make Crystalkeep grand for tonight. Finnian could feel the silent awe his escorts held as they took in the sight of the palace. He too was impressed for this was his first time setting foot in Crystalkeep. He was also envious; Daen Citadel could never compare in its current state. He hoped at least tonight that would mark the beginning of change.

    There was a flash of red in the corner of his eye and he turned to see a slender woman dressed in flowing red garments and mask approach.

    "Empress Kuzunoha," Finnian greeted bowing in the custom of her people.

    "Hmm, I believe the purpose of the masks is so that we are not able to recognize other guests," the woman named Kuzunoha chided, but laughed. She curtsied in response.

    "It is not hard to recognize one of our most important allies, even if they cover their face with a mask."

    Kuzonoha's lip curled into a sad smile. "Of course. My sympathies are with you. Tamano mourns over the passing of Darcelle as well."

    Even with the green mask on, Finnian by force of habit put on his best poker face for he showed no hint of emotion at the mention of his sister. His escorts, however, glanced at Finnian to for any sign that said otherwise. Fortunately, Kuzunoha didn't linger on the subject and hooked one arm around Finnian's.

    "Let's go. Queen Nissa will be out any minute."

    Loretta guided Nissa through the palace halls, walking slowly so as not to ruin her queen's dress. Around them servants bustled, either making last minute adjustments to Crystalkeep, carrying empty trays for the guests or straightening Nissa's dress. Loretta couldn't even imagine the kind of pressure Nissa was under at this moment. Eleria hosted this ball seven years ago and Nissa only had to worry about being a proper princess and upholding her reputation. Now, she was queen. Trying to be as supportive as she could be, Loretta rehearsed the speech with Nissa over and over again.

    Eventually they arrived at the palace grand stairs with the chatter of guests reaching their ears. Loretta turned to Nissa and clasped both hands in hers, rubbing her thumb over Nissa's knuckles.

    "Remember your opening speech and make sure to extend a warm welcome to the new Dragon King. His name is Finnian. Afterwards, we will greet each of the guests individually." Loretta glanced over the railing and turned back to her friend. "Be prepared, Alpha Cerberus' brother looks ghastly in . . . whatever it is he's wearing so don't laugh at him." She wrinkled her nose but giggled a little. "You can do this my Queen. Just remember what we have rehearsed." She curtsied before stepping out of the way.
    #3 Yuuki_Tatsunohi, Jan 18, 2016
    Last edited: Jan 26, 2016
  3. Nissa squeezed Loretta's delicate hand and did her best to smile. "Thank you. You've always kept me sane, ever since we were children." She let go and watched the woman step away, hesitating behind the door that led to the staircase. Loretta was right, she could do this. This was what she had been groomed for every moment of her life. Because it was never certain who the next king or queen may be, every child of royal blood was raised for the crown. Perhaps this system, that turned sibling against sibling and child against child was cruel, but none could argue that it was effective. Nissa had been raised to want nothing more than what was best for her people. And although she still felt brief moments of resentment, or longing for the type of freedom that she could never have, Nissa's main goal was to be the Queen that Eleria deserved. Just as her mother before her had been.

    Her ladies in waiting gathered like an army of silk around her, Loretta among them. When they stepped out into the Grand Hall, the women would flare out around Nissa like ripples across a pond. And she would stand alone at the center of the platform and be the voice that caused those ripples. Nissa took one last deep breath, letting her thoughts fall into place before nodding. The doors were pushed open. Instantly the queen felt the burn of hundreds of eyes. She kept her face serene, the slightest smile pulling up the corners of her lips.

    "Good evening and welcome to Crystalkeep. As you all know the Annual Acraesil Peace Ball is one of our most honored traditions. It is truly a testament to the unity of our past and a promise to continue it into the future. We are all citizens of seven strong, proud and independent nations. But as we stand here today we are reminded that we are more similar than we are different. More kin than stranger. For the sake of all of our nations, and for the sake of Acraesil as a whole we remind ourselves of this every year in the hopes that our children and our children's children will know peace where they otherwise may have known war. It is an honor to have you all here today, and I hope to speak with each and every one of you. I'll let you return to your revelry, but first I'd like to pay tribute to the late Queen Darcelle and extend a warm welcome to her successor King Finnian." Nissa took a pause, letting her words sink in. "What is in our past, lays the groundwork for our future. So here is to hoping that the future is a spectacular one. Now, please, enjoy the ball!" She finished with a nod of her head.

    Slowly the eyes ceased to burn into her and the buzz of conversation resumed. The music of the orchestra filled the air. Nissa breathed a sigh of relief that she hadn't stumbled or forgotten her carefully rehearsed words. She descended the stairs and felt the others following her. When she reached the bottom Loretta rejoined her and squeezed her hand. "You were wonderful."
    #4 FlourPower, Jan 23, 2016
    Last edited: Apr 17, 2016
  4. All eyes turned to Nissa as she entered, delivering her speech. She welcomed all, spoke with the a voice that resounded through out the room. Finnian himself nodded as his name was mentioned and everyone clapped to recognize him. The opening speech ended at that, and all guests were moved to a grand ball room. In the background an orchestra played as everyone mingled.

    Finnian was quickly met with Tsar Nikvgh, his age deceiving the strong grip the Bear ruler held. Nikvh moved on to Kuzunoha as Sultana Zareen stepped forward.

    "What a lovely ballroom. Eleria never fails to disappoint," Zareen said, batting her eyelashes behind her gold mask. A man stepped behind her, wearing a similar mask. Finnian assumed then this was Sultan Behnam, her husband.

    "Indeed," Finnian returned, nodding at Behnam. "I trust the country of Lamass is recovering well this year?"

    "Yes very much so!" exclaimed the Sultan. A few years ago, Lamass was hit with a deadly plague that affected many of its citizens. "A stroke of luck as nothing but good things have happened in Lamass."

    Finnian nodded before moving on. When no one was looking, he turned to one of his escorts. "Gilroy, send in the scouting team. I want this place thoroughly searched."

    Gilroy nodded, leaving his king's side as he searched for a place to signal the awaiting team, unaware of a pair of gold eyes watching him.

    Loretta guided Nissa towards the ball. The two entered the ball room, Loretta once again arm and arm with Nissa. Almost immediately, the two women were met by a man in dark clothing, followed by a woman and a much larger man, both also covered in dark clothes.

    "Good evening, Queen Nissa," Alpha Cerberus greeted, bowing. His brother, Beta Barguest followed suit while his Sister Beta Shuck curtsied. Cerberus took Nissa's hand and gave it a kiss. "You look lovely this evening. May I have the honor of having the first dance with the hostess?"
  5. "Honestly..." [BCOLOR=transparent]Nissa began and then pursed her lips and cut herself off. "Our children's children? Goddesses above could I have been anymore cliche?" Loretta's laugh, as lovely as the rest of her, rang out into the room and she was quick to muffle it behind her glove. Whatever the dutchess would have said in response was cut off by the arrival of the Garanian nobles. Nissa smiled when she saw them, a true smile. It was far different than her usual distant politeness. She genuinely liked the Alpha, although she retained the wariness she had for all other nobles. "Alpha Cerberus. How wonderful to see you. I trust that you are enjoying yourself?" She curtsied and then greeted his siblings in turn. [/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Nissa found herself deeply grateful for Loretta's forewarning about Barguest's attire. Although Nissa trusted in her ability to adapt to tricky situations, the Beta's clothing was a whole new level of horrifying. She and Loretta traded a secret smile, and although neither spoke a word it's meaning was clear. 'Do you see what I mean?' Spoke Loretta's eyes. 'Unfortunately.' Replied Nissa's. Nissa offered the same hand she he had just kissed. "I would love to dance and the honor would be mine." She offered the same hand that he had just kiss and allowed herself to be led to the dance floor. Loretta gave her a slight nod to indicate that they would meet later. [/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]The clink of glasses and chatter of conversation seemed to blend almost seamlessly into the music. "How are things in Eleria lately, milady?" Cerberus said in his usual brogue as he spun her across the gleaming ball room floor. It was the kind of question that seemed simple but in actuality required a complex and carefully constructed answer. Luckily Nissa had one. [/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]"Well we've been preparing for the masquerade, of course. I thought it was a delightful idea, although I am not sure how effective these masks are." Nissa said with a smile. [/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]"But of course your mask can not hide you. I could recognize you across the room. You are a difficult woman to miss." Cerberus returned coyly. Nissa knew what he was doing. Cerberus was a good man, and a charming one at that, but he was a ruler first and foremost. He would use any opportunity he could for his benefit. She knew that he was only moments from bringing up the Styx trading route. Eleria and Gar had been negotiating treaties about it since before Nissa coronation. Quite frankly she was tired of the topic and wanted nothing less than to talk about it at this ball. Although she kept her face neutral, Nissa scrambled for a way to avoid the topic. [/BCOLOR]

    [BCOLOR=transparent]Luckily she was saved from the situation all together by Queen Pardo, looking as confident and self assured as ever. Her dress possessed the same simple elegance that she did. [/BCOLOR]"My apologies for interrupting, but I had hoped to steal the Alpha for a dance." It was a bold and unconventional move, a woman asking a man to dance, especially after cutting in on his dance with someone else. Nissa was not the slightest bit surprised. She slipped her arm from Cerberus's before he could speak.

    "I suppose as the hostess I ought to say yes. To spend more than one dance with you, while enjoyable, might not be in good taste." Nissa said, tying to hide her relief. A brief frown crossed the Alpha's face when he realized he would not be able to talk to her about the trade route but it was quickly replaced with a smile as Pardo entreated him into a dance. It was the slightest bit ironic. The queen no doubt wished to discuss politics with him, the very same fate he had almost pushed on Nissa.
    • Love Love x 1
  6. Taking in the sight of the palace, Finnian's other escort, Reagan, noticed Alpha Cerberus being whisked away from Nissa by the elder Hippocamp Queen. Immediately, he rushed to Finnian's side, gently tapping on his shoulder.

    "My King, Queen Nissa is no longer disturbed by other royals," Reagan said, pointing in the direction where the Unicorn Queen was. Nodding in response, Finnian maneuvered through the crowd towards Nissa with his escort not far behind.

    The closer he approached, he could actually see the elegance of her dress; the soft silk, and intricate satin pattern on her arms. A fine representation of her position and her people. And also a sign of just how much excess the Unicorns were keeping for themselves.

    "Queen Nissa," he greeted, bowing. The moment he straightened himself, he kept his hands behind his back and feet shoulder width apart. Even with the mask on, one could see his face remained fixed, as if it were made of stone. "Crystalkeep looks even as lovely as they say, even more so in my own eyes—" he waved at the decorations and the orchestra playing. "May I have this dance with you?" Instead of holding out his hand for her to take, he gestured to the dance floor before them. The formalities in Finnian's greatly contrasted from the charm Cerberus had, causing even Loretta to blink. In part it was due to him being unfamiliar with the queen and vice versa; another was due to a recent change in his personality apparent to the few who knew him before attending this event. He waited for the queen to respond, ready to insist if she so refused.
    #7 Yuuki_Tatsunohi, Feb 4, 2016
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2016
  7. Nissa knew she would not have to seek out another guest. As both a queen and tonight's host, she simply needed to stand here for longer than a few seconds and someone was bound to whisk her off somewhere. As it turns out she was right. No more than a minute had past when the king of Kuron approached. While he spoke, she took the opportunity to study him as she hadn't been able to from afar.

    'The Albino Dragon' as she'd heard several giggling ladies' maids dub him in the past, fit his nickname well. He was both fair haired and fair skinned. His suit was green and gold and only seemed to emphasized the silver steel of his eyes. From what Nissa could tell through his attire, his figure was lithe but not to the point of being wiry. Both his posture and his speech were ridged with formality and Nissa felt her guard raise in response.

    She dropped into a polite curtsy, careful not to upset whatever elaborate piece of art her hair had been crafted into. Whatever it was, it was uncomfortable heavy on top of her head. She was used to that, of course. "Thank you. I took great strides to ensure that everyone enjoys themselves tonight." Nissa said smoothly. In all honesty she thought some of this might be overkill but her advisers had been insistent that she put on airs. It was what Eleria was expected to do, after all. She supposed there was no harm in reminding the other monarchs of their wealth and subsequent power. What a thing to think at a celebration of peace, she thought, disgusted with herself. Nissa suddenly felt the urge to lock herself in her room and never come out. Being a queen was a difficult load to bear.

    "I would be honored." Nissa told the king, and took his outstretched palm.
  8. Finnian watched the queen take his palm. He knew Reagan was watching, and was sure his escort was expecting his liege to pull away. He found himself a little disappointed his subjects would think that way of him. Fortunately, Finnian knew this at least was what he wanted even though his body did not show it. He guided Nissa onto the dance floor as the orchestra behind them played a slower tune.

    "I do have to wonder who came up with the idea for masks this year," he said, placing one hand underneath her shoulder blade. "It is not exactly easy for someone with my features to remain discreet."

    Amidst the chatter and music around them, Finnian led the dance in a simple waltz, allowing her to twirl with the music. He let the dance carry on for the rest of the song, allowing the hostess to not only get to know him, but also be more relaxed in his presence. Out of all the royals, he had the difficult task of making a good first impression. If things went smoothly tonight, then the potential for Kuron with the other countries will be doubled.

    Gilroy had stationed himself in a dark corner in the palace grounds, away from the guards and any wandering guests. He double checked to make sure he wasn't being followed before his face formed into the snout of his dragon form. With deep breaths, two large sparks burst from his mouth and into the air. Minutes later, a small team of soldiers emerged from the bushes, their leader immediately greeting the escort. This team was handpicked by the generals of the Kuron military for not only are they the fastest, they are also the stealthiest. Dragons who through the Kuron-Tamano alliance trained to be as quiet as they could possibly be.

    "Remember the goal," Gilroy said to all. "Do not be seen, do not be heard. Only search and do not attack."

    They all nodded. Gilroy pointed towards a window on the far side where the team can find entry into the palace. The leader waved at his team to move forward, facing Gilroy and saying, "For the Queen," then followed after them.
  9. Nissa thought on it for a moment before responding. Although she was reserved with most of the nobles here, Loretta one of the few exceptions, it was especially pronounced with this new king. Kuron and Eleria had historically been allies, but when power shifted, loyalties did as well. Nissa felt a headache coming on and wished she smoked, like some of the ladies in court did. Opium was said to do wonders for the health as painkillers, and were even said to cure bad humors. Still, it was not something a lady did in open court, certainty not a queen. Besides that, Nissa's personal physician- a man who she both trusted and liked, had told her it was probably bad for her health. Still, a girl could dream.

    "One of the ladies of court. I believe they have a committee to plan events and the like. They live for that sort of thing. Their husbands have their politics and they have their parties." For a moment Nissa's lips pressed into a thin line but her smile reappeared just as quickly. "I have been trying to bring more women into positions of power, but it is hard to change the ways of the past, especially when they are so engraved into the world." And she had made progress, just not as much as she would have liked. "Anyways, I do believe that it has more to do with fun then disguise." We're all wearing masks, anyways. Nissa thought, with a wry smile.

    When the song finished she stepped back from the king with a polite smile. Around them other couples did the same and their was laughter and the music of glasses clinking together. She gave the pale man a curtsy, almost as an afterthought. "Thank you, it was lovely to dance with you." Truly, his conversation had been pleasant and he was certainty more attractive than some of the men she would have to dance with tonight. "If you would excuse me, I must search for a friend of mine in this crowd."
  10. “Aah. Definitely, won’t be easy, but it can be done,” he replied to her goal of equalizing power among genders. The song came to a close and suddenly Nissa pulled away, saying she had to find someone a friend in the crowd.

    “You know, it’s not polite to suddenly leave someone, especially if they are new. Hosts are supposed to accompany their guests, make them feel welcome.” A new song started and Finnian once again held out his hand towards the queen. “You should at least hear what I have to say.”
  11. Nissa managed to keep her displeasure of her face, but just barely. It materialized on her in a pressing of the lips and a raising of the brow. Her smile did not waver, but her eyes grew shrewd. Nissa had always prided herself on her courteousness and social grace and she did not take well to someone disparaging it. As she stepped back closer to him, she had to remind herself that he had just newly taken the throne. Though they were around the same age, he might not be as accustomed to the games that monarchs played as she was.

    Nissa felt herself relax, if only slightly. She placed her hand in hers. "Forgive me, I had not meant to be" She almost choked on the word "Rude. As you said, I am a hostess and I'm afraid I must meet with everyone tonight, so no one is neglected. It is a time consuming task." She did not add that if he really wanted to speak to her that badly, he should have forgone the small talk about party planning and such trivial manners.
  12. Finnian nodded in approval. A new song started, slower this time. This would allow him to properly speak to the queen without the added pressures of keeping in in time with a fast paced song. He placed one hand on the small of her back, leading the queen across the dance floor. Unlike the previous song, there was no opportunity to twirl.

    “I’m sure you are aware of Kuron’s situations, no?” he began. “Our population has grown over the last few decades, resulting in overcrowding. People are practically squished together. Our sources have depleted immensely, with many starving. We can’t even easily transform for fear of hurting those nearby. And even then, my people’s forms are weak and thin.

    “Queen Nissa, our two countries border each other and in the past the relationship between dragons and unicorns has been on good terms. My late sister was one of the first to welcome you when you inherited the throne. I’m asking you this: gives us some of your land. A portion for my people to spread. Eleria is vast, much of it is uninhabited. Surely it could be given to someone who needs it more.”

    As the Dragon King and Unicorn Queen talked, Gilroy returned. He nodded at Reagan, signaling everything had gone well. A servant with unnaturally gold eyes approached, offering a glass to the both of them. Gilroy gladly took one, but Reagan shook his head. The servant, however, was persistent and kept offering Reagan the drink until his expression turned dark, the pupils of his eyes turning to slits. The servant blinked, uttered an apology, then left. Gilroy raised his eyebrows at Reagan and took one sip; it shouldn’t be a problem whether or not his partner has a drink. They too are allowed to enjoy themselves, as long as they keep their manners. Unfortunate Reagan had chosen now to be serious.
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  13. This song was slower, Nissa noted with some relief. Dancing was more tiring than it looked and a queen at a ball certainly did much of it. She did like dancing, but no more than any other woman. Unlike some of the women she knew, she did not possess a simple and inherent grace in it either. All of her skill came from years of practice and training. Other couples swayed around them and lone figures weaved their way between the guards in silver livery along the walls and the people on the dance floor. Flutes of shimmering liquid traded hands and clusters of nobles stood in quiet corners to converse.

    Despite all of this activity around her, Niaa felt strangely contained in the small space between her and the king. As if they hung suspended in some strange dimension. As the blonde spoke, that space seemed to grow smaller in smaller. Nissa tasted bile in the back of her throat. "I am aware of your people's plight, and my heart truly aches for you. It has grown worse, I imagine, since your sister and I spoke of it some years ago." She could not imagine what it was like to be trapped in one's human form.

    Although anyone who was a part civilized society spent their majority of their time in their human form, everyone took on their other forms at least once every month. There were festivals specifically devoted to it. There was something about being in her unicorn form that just felt right to Nissa, like taking a breath of fresh air or coming home after a long trip. The longer you waited to transform, the more uncomfortable it became. And this was the least of his people's problems, if they had begun to starve. And Nissa knew there was not a damned thing she could do about it.

    “King Finnian, if your situation is that dire I will gladly offer aid to your country. Eleria has food and supplies that we can spare. Your sister laid a strong foundation for the relationship between Kuron and Eleria, and I would like to see it continued. However, I am afraid I can not offer you any of our land." She could not meet his eye as she spoke, an old guilt she could do nothing to soothe rising inside her.
    #14 FlourPower, Apr 18, 2016
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2016
    • Love Love x 1
  14. Finnian was glad to hear the queen was willing to help. In addition she empathized with the Dragons and did not ridicule him for requesting assistance. Most rulers his age would have stubbornly put their nose in the air and refuse to get on their knees and beg, but Finnian knew the cost of pride was incomparable to the loss of life. He was aware this would come back to haunt him, even from his own people, but the survival of Kuron was more important. He was ready to suggest parameters when Nissa said her land was not an option.

    Finnian’s hand momentarily tensed. He loosened his grip on the queen’s hand, but narrowed his eyes. Why can’t she offer land? Eleria was vast, largely uninhabited, and most importantly fertile. What the Dragons needed the most was that rich land, not only to spread their wings but to also grow crops, to feed their young. Surely, just even a fraction of Eleria would not be missed? The Unicorn Queen seemed to think otherwise, apparently.

    “I thank you for the offer, but increasing our borders is what we really need,” he said, his voice strained. "Is there a reason why you can't offer it?"
  15. Tense displeasure seemed to radiate of the king. His posture went rigid, and his hand gripped hers hard enough to turn the skin of her fingers white. A moment of panic welled in her but her released her hand before she could decide how to react. His eyes narrowed into hard slits and the question she had been expecting, dreading, slipped from his lips.

    It was a question she could not answer: Eleria's greatest secret, known only to a dozen or so living people. If it were to fall into the wrong hands it could mean the downfall of her kingdom. Nissa did not think King Finnian was an evil man, in fact he may have even been a good one. What she did know was that he was desperate to help his people, willing to whatever it took. She could not allow such a secret to fall into his hands.

    That left the matter of what to tell him. He would think her selfish and cruel, but she could bear it. A monarch could not please everyone and years of withstanding criticism had thickened her skin. The woman inside her still desperately wanted to be liked, but the queen pushed her aside. Nissa was finally able to meet his eyes, trying to calm but not dismissive. She did not want him to think that she was making light of the issue. "For the sake of my kingdom and the prosperity of my people, I am unable to offer my land to you. For this I extend my sincerest apologies. My offer of aid still stands, of course." She paused, looking away from him again. "You are bordered by Ursa to the East, perhaps you might ask them?
  16. “I see,” he said. It couldn’t have been any clearer. She was unwilling, reluctant, and selfish; he grit his teeth. Nissa looked away and he knew she felt guilty for not saying yes to his request. He almost thought she was going to retract what she said earlier when she suggested looking to their northern neighbor Ursa for help. “Ursa is a frozen, barren land. Crops will die before they can even sprout. And the effects of the cold will greatly hinder us, if not kill us.” He emphasized those last words.

    For the people of Kuron, extremely cold temperatures such as Ursa’s affect them in a most undesirable way. They turn lethargic. Their activity will slow to the point where they fall into a deep, deep sleep. Some eventually succumb to this slumber, passing away quietly. It was believed the freezing temperatures would overpower that deep fire all Dragons held, the burning heat that took form when unleashed from their maw, slowly extinguished and sapping all energy from their bodies.

    The song approached its end. Finnian stopped dancing then whispered in her ear, “There are rumors you are growing nightshade.”

    Belladonna, dwayberry, Devil’s cherry, nightshade. The plant had many names and was known as one of the most toxic plants in existence. So toxic that even the leaves itself drips with poison. In the past, extra steps had been taken to ban and eliminate the plant for it poisoned the waters of all nations, killing thousands. The plant was last recorded thirty years ago and has then believed to have been totally eradicated from Acraesil. Believed, until the Finnian got wind of this supposed rumor just before his coronation.

    “Is this true?”
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  17. King Finnian was clearly none too pleased with her response, and although she felt sorrow on his people’s behalf, she truly could not offer him assistance any more than she could tell him why. Nissa considered herself as skilled as any ruler at politicking, however she found herself at a loss for excuses. If she could not tell him the truth, what then?

    Nissa would have to consult with her advisers, the select few who were allowed to know Eleria’s most precious secret. She herself had not been told until she became queen. Goddesses willing, they would have some advice on the matter. She did not want to ruin their relationship with Kuron any more than was necessary.

    In the meantime, she would try to find another solution to the King’s problem. Although her own people would always come first, she had done what she could during her reign to better the continent as a whole. No easy task, considering the enormous amount of work she already had to balance.

    As the last chords of the song shivered through the air, the King stepped so closely to her that she could feel his breath on her ear. As a princess she might have blushed and shied away. As a queen she went rigid, but held her ground.

    Nissa was not sure what she had expected the dragon to say, but it certainly was not what came out of his mouth. Had he truly just accused her of growing nightshade? Perhaps it was his way of striking back after she refused him Elerian land. Affronted, Nissa stepped suddenly back from him, cheeks heating with anger. “Excuse me?” She bit out.

    “I assure you, that these rumors are just that. Rumors. If we were to believe every wagging tongue or inventive mind, then both our kingdoms would crumble within a matter of days. I am sure you would agree. I can personally assure you that Eleria has done nothing of the kind. Now if you will excuse me, I must attend to my other guests.” Nissa finished, turning up her chin with barely contained temper.
  18. Finnian was prepared. He was aware of his words, the implication they could imply and the reaction he would receive. Before coming here, he mulled over them, chose his words carefully, considered the consequences. Just the mere mention of the plant itself was taboo. The memory was still fresh and many would choose not to talk about it. Was it worth asking? Was it worth the risk?

    To Finnian, it was a yes. Some would disagree, but for him, it was personal. Very personal. Few people knew why and that he would leave no stone unturned until he received answers.

    His face remained impassive as she abruptly stepped away from him. She glared, chided him about the rumors and defended herself and her country from growing the plant before dismissing him from her presence.

    "My apologies then," he returned, bowing. "May you enjoy the rest of the ball."

    He walked away and was soon joined by Reagan and Gilroy. "Status on the infiltration."

    "A success," Gilroy replied. He wiped his forehead, his face flush. His company assumed he had too much to drink. "The team is searching the castle as we speak."

    "The queen?" Reagan asked.

    "She denied any connection. Regardless, we continue as planned. I only hope for the sake of our alliance, she is right."

    As soon as the Dragon King had left, Loretta stepped forward to her queen's side. She had watched the exchange between the two monarchs, raising an eyebrow when Nissa lifted her chin at the king.

    "Is everything alright?" she asked.

    The team had reached the closed portion of the castle, managing to avoid detection with little incident. They searched through the offices of officials, living quarters, even the queen's own personal space. They found nothing and moved on, arriving at a section of the palace housing a modest sized garden. They inspected every flower, every plant. Consulting with each other and constantly referring to the drawing of nightshade provided to them.

    One of the soldiers was walking down the pathway when she heard a twig snap. She whipped her head around, looking for the source. Instead she found a door hidden by an over growth of ivy and vines. She burned a portion of the plants away, pushing open the door and into a musty greenhouse. It was filled with greenery, some known throughout the nations, others the soldier had never seen before. She walked through the aisles, scanning each plant she passed. She approached the end of the last row, ready to call this place null, when a dark bundle of berries caught her eye. She inspected the plant, comparing it to the picture she had received. The deep green leaves, the thick stalk, the purple bell flowers. This was it, nightshade. She only saw one, but there might be more in a different area of the castle. But they found what they were looking for. She called out to her teammates and took the plant with her, failing to notice as a single large feather was swept out from behind the plant, floating gently to the ground.
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  19. Loretta watched as her queen and dearest friend swept across the dance floor with the newly appointed Kuronian king. He was as handsome as popular rumor had made him out to be. His exotic beauty was an alluring contrast to Nissa's dark hair and almond eyes. They would make a lovely couple. She could tell from the polite blankness in her queen's face that a love match was unlikely. It was nothing against the fair haired king in particular. He could have been her heart-mate for all Loretta knew, but it would not make the slightest bit of difference to Nissa.

    Nissa was first and foremost a queen and nothing existed for her beyond that. If Nissa felt obligated to marry for political reasons, she would do so without hesitation. It might eat away at her soul, but she would do it regardless. However, a marriage of love? The queen would never hear of it. She was saving her hand as a political tool, a bargaining chip for when it was most needed. She would never waste it on something as 'trivial' as love. Whatever else could be said of Nissa, she was fiercely devoted to Eleria. The goddesses could not have chosen a more loyal ruler. Loretta felt something unpleasant twist in her stomach and turned away from the two monarchs.

    She knew that she would have to mingle, both as a Duchess and a Courtier. Not talking to anyone was the best way to ensure one would be talked about, and the last thing Loretta needed right now was attention. It would not be hard to socialize. Her rank alone would guarantee her a place in any conversation or social circle. Not to mention her beauty.

    Loretta was aware that she was very beautiful. Unlike most women she was neither vain nor self unconscious of it. In fact, she'd once hated her loveliness. It had made her a victim, made her a target. No longer. Now she could appreciate it for what it was. A weapon, one that she had carefully honed. It was incredible how many doors she could open with a bat of her eyelashes. How many secret she could glean with a gossamer smile.

    Before Loretta could approach her chosen conversation partner, the loquacious Lady Revour, who would be perfectly happy to do enough talking for the both of them, a figure blocked her path. The man was tall and wiry, the beginnings of a beard dusted his square jaw. His dark hair was oiled back, and his eyes were cold. "Uncle." Loretta said, her face impassive. Her fingers did not tremble beneath the lace of her gloves. Not anymore.

    "How is the queen tonight?" He asked, his voice deep and unaccented. There was a familiar sternness in the set of his shoulders. She remembered many years ago, when she'd been only a child, when his shoulders had been softer. When he'd smiled more often. How everything had changed. Loretta turned her gaze back to the queen. She and the king had come to a standstill, and the purse of her lips told Loretta that whatever they were discussing was far from pleasant. She watched in amazement as angry color came upon Nissa's cheeks.

    "She is lovely, in fact I am on my way to speak with her now." Loretta said.

    "Well, then, do not let me keep you." Her uncle said. Loretta touched the locket around her throat through the beading of her gown as she walked away. She did not have to turn her head to know his eyes were burning into her back.

    The king had departed by the time she arrived and Nissa was staring fiercely after him. "Is everything alright?" Loretta asked, raising a slim eyebrow at the queen. Nissa turned towards her, a scowl on her lips. When she spoke her tone was dangerously quiet.

    "The King of Kuron has just accused me of growing nightshade." Nissa growled. Loretta went pale. Across the room, the quartet finished a spring symphony and began a winter dirge.
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