The Demon and the Daughter

Discussion in 'ROLEPLAY GRAVEYARD' started by Sansa Stark, Nov 10, 2014.

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    evelle is a country torn by the plagues of war. Once the supreme monarch of the Four Realms throughout the country, King Endrik gripped the lands in the stronghold of his need for ultimate power and selfishness. Passing laws that allowed slavery, poverty and all manner of crimes to go unpunished throughout the country, the king grew a great man supporters who wished not to cross him, as well as those who would do anything to remove him from his seat of power. Among those of the rebellion forces was the noble house of Highlier, who reigned over the golden city of Lunaris in the Eastern Realm. Ever a just and honest man who placed the good of the people before all else, Eddard Highlier's claims against the king were reasonable, and before long he had enough support to launch a full-scale rebellion. Within that time, the people who supported his cause grew accustomed to calling him the "King in the East," and slowly their intentions shifted from saving the nation of Revelle to separating the Eastern Realm from the rest of the kingdom, yearning to become an independent and sovereign state.

    The war lasted three long years. Battle after battle bathed Revelle in the blood of her people, and while the death toll rose neither side could seem to come to terms. Both were insistent to remain stubborn and lack a compromise. The fighting waged on with terrible consequences until, at the whim of his youngest child and only daughter, King Eddard of Lunaris sent out a letter to King Endrik in the West to discuss terms of peace. The two then agreed to meet on neutral ground to end the war once and for all, and put the land of Revelle to a just rest once more.

    Our story begins as most do, with a country's fate hanging in the balance, on a summit where East meets West and war meets it's fateful end.

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    Peacemakers, #CC99FF The bitter mountain winds whipped and whistled past her ears and through long, blonde curls that reached out in the directions they were blown. The fresh spring sun hung high in cloudy skies, though hardly enough warmth reached the small party of men and women from the east on their long cross-country trek. Winter had only just come to an end fortnight past, and while spring knocked softly on the door of a weather's change the flowers still clung to winter's chill and the breezes still whispered frigid words. I wish I had worn a warmer dress. The level of elevation they traveled hadn't helped to stop the goosebumps on her arms, and no manner of thick cloaks or furs could shake the cold from her bones. Aurelia clutched the fabric closer around her shoulders and sent a silent prayer to the gods for an act of mercy that would fill her body with warmth once more.

    Mount Lyren, so named for the conquering Viking queen from days long before civilized time, loomed high above the party as they traveled in her shadow. Though they were at least a thousand feet above the surface of the sea, Aurelia had a beautiful view of each kingdom no matter which direction she looked. To the east across the river was her father's kingdom, a kingdom of rebels and justice and courageous demeanors, and to the west lied Gryphon's Roost and the country's depraved capital ruled by a king of injustice. Aurelia had only traveled so far on one occasion, when King Martyn had thrown a tourney to celebrate the nameday of his eldest son. At the time, she had only been a five year old girl clutching onto her father's leg in fear of the unknown that surrounded her. Ten years had passed and Aurelia, a princess and no longer a little lady, had outgrown such foolish notions of what it meant to be afraid. Her father was a noble man with all the forces in the Eastern Realm at his side. What could I possibly have to fear?

    The more distance she and her family put between themselves and Lunaris, however, the more nervous she became. Far from home meant far from protection, far from safety. Her father had only brought a small force of five-hundred men to treat with King Endrik, convinced that the opposite monarch would not risk an open battle in such rough terrain and break their promise of a peaceful reception. Aurelia supposed she could see the sense in that. Rocks and mud and tall grasses were splotted about the fields like paint sprayed randomly across a canvas. The princess was only fifteen with no sense for the ways of war, but she knew her father's judgement was sound when it came to where they could and couldn't fight. She would never cease to place her trust in him despite the growing feeling of anxiety, despite all they had to lose. He would always make the best choices for the family, for his people and all those under his kingly protection.

    As quietly as she could, Aurelia clicked her tongue and encouraged her mare to speed up in the slightest bit in order to catch up to her father's side. The closer to him that she was, the safer she felt. "Father," Aurelia said, "will we be there soon? We've been traveling for hours."

    "Yes, sweetling. Shouldn't be more than a half hour." The warm smile Eddard de Highlier shone toward his children would always be one she treasured dear. "Why? Are you sore in the saddle? Your mother brought some painkilling tea with her if there are other reasons for your discomfort."

    "No," the princess replied. "I just...I want this to be over."

    King Eddard sighed, a deep sigh that let loose the stresses of his position. "As do I, sweetling. As do I." He uncorked a skin of wine and took several long drinks before handing it to his squire that rode at his side, thanking him for the refreshment. "Your brothers are ahead, scouting the area to make sure there aren't any traps. You never know what King Endrik has up his sleeve. He's a slippery one, that king. Hopefully this will be the last time I ever have to see him."

    "Surely one man can't be all that bad." Aurelia looked innocently to her regal father. "Everyone has good in them, I think. Perhaps King Endrik just hasn't...tapped into it yet."

    "Tapped into it?" Eddard gave a hearty laugh, though it wasn't one made to mock her and was built solely on admiration. "You speak of goodness as if it's a jewel to be mined. Ah, Aurelia. You are a sweet child. Innocent, but sweet. It is people like you that will make this country a better place, those who can learn to see the good in most every situation, every person. If more people thought like you, perhaps this war might not have been started in the first place."

    It was hard to imagine a life without war. It had consumed so many of her waking moments that were memorable to the point where picturing the state of things without battle plans or warnings of invasion seemed foreign to her. She opened her mouth to speak, but the words she wished to say hadn't come forth and instead she let her lips seal shut once more. The rest of the ride would be served in silence, in mental preparation for what may or may not lay beyond the edge of the hill, and Aurelia brought the sun pendant around her neck to her lips for a kiss of good luck along with a gentle prayer.

    As High as Honor, she thought wistfully. We cannot lose here.
     
    #1 Sansa Stark, Nov 10, 2014
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2014
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  2. The Meeting on Mount Lyren, red

    "As High As Honor, it says... Yes, their honor has served them well, hasn't it?"

    A regal figure leaned against a stone balcony, stark blue eyes gazing into the distance at the approaching banner of purple, gold and white. His handsome face bore a devious expression, always smiling as if he knew something that another was not privy to. In most cases, that wasn't far from the truth. King Endrik, the 'rightful' king of Revelle usually had one scheme or another unfolding behind the scenes, and this peace summit would be no different.

    His current companion, shadowing the monarch under the archway just behind, had no inkling as to what Endrik might be plotting, as the king seemed to be playing this one close to the chest. Not that it mattered much; the games played by men of higher birth than him were of no concern. All that mattered was getting through this tedious meeting in one piece. They could've picked a better place to hold it, The Demon thought to himself, grimacing as a bracing gust of wind rolled past. Hate the fucking cold.

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    Indeed, the location for the peace summit was quite literally being held at a summit, the peak of venerable mount Lyren where the ancient order of silent Arastan monks dwelled in their massive monastery, paying homage to the gods with archaic traditions lost to lowlanders. It was the perfect location, however, as the monks had remained neutral throughout the long civil war, pacifists by nature. Their headmaster, Kyras (the only among them who spoke), agreed to let the negotiations take place here on the condition that the war would be brought to a swift end and peace would return to the realm.

    Though they lived in isolation, the people of Revelle still held the Arastans in high esteem, particularly the easterners from which their religion could be said to have originated with them. King Eddard was no exception, honorable and faithful man that he was. Endrik knew as much, and soon enough it would be used to his advantage. That fact only served to broaden the smug grin on the king's face, spinning around, hands clasped together in anticipation.

    "Well then. Let us get ready to greet our guests, shall we?" Endrik gave a brief wave of the hand to his bodyguard as he strode past, motioning for The Demon to follow. Darion narrowed his heterochromatic eyes, falling in line behind his liege as he was bid.

    If he weren't the king, I'd smack that shit-eating grin right off his face. The thought alone made him smirk.

    ~~~~

    As the Highlier party drew close to the peak, the winding mountain path became increasingly narrower, the frigid air thinner, and the clouded sky darker. The monastery was finally in sight now, the ancient structure had a unique architecture unlike anything in the lowlands; but then, those cities weren't built thousands of years ago. It was a wonder the Arastans had maintained it so well over the years.

    Eddard called for the host to halt, espying a band of riders approaching, displaying a banner of their own.

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    He recognized the sigil as that of House Varden, one of the houses loyal to Endrik. While they fought on opposing sides, Lord Garett Varden had been an honorable foe, never using disreputable tactics to win battles or treating prisoners with disrespect. Not as much could be said for the king's own house, nor many of the other noble houses in the east. If it had been the Blackwells or the Dramonts riding out to meet them instead, he might've been a little less at ease, so it was with some small relief when the rider at the fore removed his helmet, revealing that head of blazing red hair that Lord Garrett was known for.

    Glancing to the daughter at his left, he offered a small nod, bidding her to stay put for the moment. Spurring his horse on, he rode forward cautiously, two of his men falling in on either side.

    "My Lord Highlier! It brings me great joy to see you've made it here alive and well. I trust your journey was a safe one?"

    The man at Eddard's left interjected before he could reply, responding to Varden curtly. "You're addressing the king of the east, sir. You should refer to our king as 'your grace'."

    Eddard motioned for his bodyguard to withhold his comments. "That's quite alright Draxos, I'm sure Lord Varden meant no offense." Though his man's words were technically true, Eddard would always be a humble man, even as a king with an entire nation of loyal subjects at his back. Unlike the 'rightful' king of Revelle, Eddard truly had been reluctant to take up the mantle as a leader of a nation; such power had never been one of his aims in life, and he was still getting accustomed to the notion of being king, even after all this time.

    "Of course not, your grace." Lord Varden bowed his head in apology. "I'd sooner ride my horse over the side of this cliff than do anything that may jeopardize this vie for peace. Our country has been at war for far too long, and I've lost far too many sons."

    Eddard frowned, a genuine look of regret affixed in his expression. "It filled me with regret to hear of Domar and Gavren's passing. They were good lads, just like their father." He knew too well what it was like to lose a child. There was no greater horror in this life. "I would understand if you held any ill will towards me, Lord Varden, but I hope we can set that aside for the time being."

    Varden hesitated before his response, as if the words had caught in his throat. "I do not, your grace. Just as I hope you hold none towards me." Turning his horse around, he called for the King of the East and his men to follow. "Come, your grace. The king- rather, MY king is ready to receive you."
     
    #2 ConstructPylons, Nov 10, 2014
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2014
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  3. Peacemakers, #CC99FF The remaining journey toward the monastery was a relatively short one. The conversation was kept minimal to none as each man in her father's host mentally prepared for whichever way the meeting would turn. Aurelia felt her own heart begin to race with the knowledge of possibility. Should the conversations turn to that of war and a battle break out in the shadow of Lyren's Mountain, Ser Taurus and a host of twenty men were charged with bringing the queen and princess safely from the fray and back to the city of Lunaris with all possible speed. The brothers of Aurelia's that had come along would no doubt stay and fight alongside their father, but she feared for them so--King Endrik had taken a holy vow, confirmed by the monks at the monastery of neutral ground, that he would march to meet her father in peace. King Eddard had sworn the same. In the sight of God, neither side could harm the other lest they incur the wrath of heaven. But that alone could not assure Princess Aurelia of her family's precious safety.

    Before the group had left, Aurelia questioned why she had to come along in the first place. King Eddard had justified his choices by remaining confident that no king would be foolish enough to break holy law, and in bringing part of his family he might seek to open the windows of mutual trust, if only for that one particular day. It would show Endrik that the Highliers of Lunaris were not afraid to meet during war, that the family itself was as involved as their king and people. But it was a foolish move to bring everyone, so her younger brother Edward had remained home along with one of her older brothers, Antonion. The rest had traveled to the mountain where peace would come, to witness history in the making.

    Aurelia would be thrilled if she wasn't so terrified.

    As the group reached the peak of the summit, the monastery wavered into view along with flittering banners of various hue and sigil. There was only one that mattered. A crowned griffin parading across a field of crimson and pale gold was the only flag she kept her eyes on, and the king whose name it belonged to. She scanned bright eyes across his forward lineup, seeing strong men and smart men and others built for archery, along with a particular person who looked more monster than human being. But when her eyes fell on the opposing king, their gaze was locked. He smiled at her and she smiled back, still clinging to the belief that there was good to be found in everyone, though when he leaned over to whisper to a comrade while gesturing to her in the distance her smile fell. Me? Why would he want to talk about me?

    Moments of silence passed. When neither side was content to make the first move, King Eddard clicked his tongue and moved his horse as forward as he dared without crossing the invisible line of their boundaries. "King Endrik," he called across the field. "I am glad to see you are well. I fear your journey was much harder than our own." It was not meant as a mock--the Western Realms were purely fields and flatlands with the occasional parade of rolling hills, while the Eastern Realm was build on summits and low mountains and within the crevices of fertile valleys. The people who lived there were used to dangerous roads while the west was accustomed to convenience. "May I present my wife, Queen Esmeralda, my sons, Princes Roylan, Kilian and Astor, and my only daughter, Princess Aurelia." The king gestured to them all in turn. "We are pleased to have the opportunity to treat with you on fields of peace. It is my deepest hope that you feel the same."
     
    #3 Sansa Stark, Nov 10, 2014
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2014
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  4. The Meeting on Mount Lyren, red
    The assembled lords and knights in the king's entourage donned their arms and armor, just as prepared for anything as the other side was. They had been at odds so long, it felt almost alien to be facing one another in any capacity besides war. As the King of the East fearlessly came forward to offer his formal greeting, so too did Endrik, four guards accompanying him, their surcoats emblazoned with the crossed poleaxes of House Blackwell. The Demon was foremost among them, sticking close to Endrik's side as he'd been commanded.

    The Western king trotted forward on his horse, the beast adorned with glittering golden armor, the plate mail he donned himself matching its lavish style. It was a stark contrast to the other king's relatively modest mail; Eddard couldn't help but wonder how many pounds of grain the money spent on that armor could've bought for the impoverished peasants in their kingdom's villages.

    Endrik slid from his mount, heavy greaves thudding in the dirt as he hit the ground. Without needing any command, his four defenders did the same, falling in line next to their king as squires came to usher their steeds away. Darion kept his hand at his hip, ready to draw his blade at a moment's notice. Not that either party would be stupid enough to try anything here. If anyone were to instigate, it would Endrik, but he knew his liege better than that. For all his faults, the man was no fool.

    "My lords, my ladies." Endrik offered a bow to each of House Highlier as they were introduced, flashing a set of flawless white teeth with each disingenuous smile. His gaze lingered on Aurelia for perhaps a little longer than the others, an untrustworthy glint in his eye. Darion knew that look all too well; while the king had yet to marry, he had taken many a woman in his bed chambers, whether they desired him or not... but there was no refusing a king. Not one such as him, anyway.

    "It does indeed warm my heart to see you and your family here, King Eddard, our households baring good will rather than steel against one another for once. It is my belief that, with the help of the gods, we can put an end to this bloodshed, and forge a brighter future for the country we all undeniably love."

    "But I am getting ahead of myself. Come, my friends, you must be tired from your journey." Endrik turned to his men, motioning to the guards outside the iron gate of the monastery's walls. The men did as they were bid, hoisting up the portcullis as the host outside the walls dispersed to allow passage through. "Lord Varden, please escort our guests into the castle walls and see that their every need is tended to. We shall begin preparing for the delegations post-haste."

    The king leisurely strolled past the gates, his guard followed close behind him. Varden rode up next to Eddard, nodding his head in the direction of the keep. "This way, your grace." Eddard nodded back, taking a glance back at his daughter one last time, before following, the rest of his party in tow.

    He was silent on the approach, wondering if perhaps all this was a mistake. There was an urge that ate at him, to turn his family around now, that he could very well be leading his loved ones into the viper's nest. No... Endrik may be a snake, but he would never break a holy vow. The man is not as pious as he claims, but a king who can't be trusted with a sacred pact would quickly lose all support of the people. Eddard reassured himself interally, and yet the unease in his heart remained. This was to be a long day, no doubt.

    ~~~~

    Dusk tinted the sky in black, the sun's rays threatening to disappear at a moment's notice. The Highlier men had set up their camps within the spacious monastery courtyard, their simple purple tents propped up along the eastern wall while the houses accompanying had erected theirs along the west, a symbolic arrangement that was not lost on many.

    The soldiers feasted and drank ale, exchanging war stories, rumors and the like amongst one another, each tale less believable than the last. Initially the two sides had kept to themselves, occasionally exchanging hostile glances. However as the night wore on, and the ale flowed more freely, the two camps eventually softened up, sharing their food, their wine and their mirth with one another, joyous at the prospect of the war coming to a close. Many had not seen their homes in months, years even.

    As the men partook, the Arastan monks tended to their monastery as they always did, flittering about in their flowing black robes, their faces all hidden by low hanging hoods; they had almost a ghostly presence to them, and the fact that they did not speak made it just that much eerier.

    The King had not yet emerged from the great hall at the center temple, supposedly busy preparing the legal documents and such with his advisors. At last, however, one did emerge from the stone double doors at its entrance; but it was not the king, it was merely his trusted bodyguard. Darion strode past the throngs of inebriated men sitting around campfires, eating like hogs and drinking like fish. Unlike them, The Demon was grim as ever. Most avoided eye contact, believing he could steal their souls with a glance; the result of another unfounded rumor, no doubt. It didn't matter either way. He could care less what superstitious fools thought of him.

    Stopping just outside King Eddard's tent, one of the soldiers on guard addressed him. "What is your business, ser?"

    Darion scowled, narrowing his eyes at the man who was easily a head shorter than him, regarding him as if he were nothing. "I'm here at the king's behest, little man." His hand moved to his scabbard, just daring this soldier to try something. He hadn't had a good fight in ages. Reactively the soldier's hand went to the hilt of his own blade, the other guards beside him following suit.

    Before the situation could escalate any further, Eddard emerged from the tent, having heard the exchange from inside. He signaled to his men to stand down, eying the Demon cautiously. "What is it you need?" He asked quickly, though maintaining some semblance of formality. He wasn't keen on conversing with one of House Blackwell, this one in particular less so.

    With a sigh, The Demon dropped his hostile stance. So much for getting a good fight in tonight. Probably for the better, he thought, wouldn't want to hang as the man who started the war all over again. Grudgingly, he relayed the message he was given. "My liege Endrik has finished preparing. He's ready to see you now."

    "Very well. Tell him I'll be there shortly." Eddard disappeared back into the tent without a second thought, the guardsman moving back into position in his absence. Darion caught a brief glimpse of the royal family at their table before the flap closed, locking eyes with the Highlier daughter, Aurelia, for a split second. Slowly he turned away, making his way back to the temple.

    Did I steal her soul too, I wonder?
     
    #4 ConstructPylons, Nov 11, 2014
    Last edited: Nov 11, 2014
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  5. The King of Perversion, #CC99FF When the man with the freakish scar left her father's tent, Aurelia let go a rush of air that she had been holding in. True, she was a kind and benevolent girl who was more pure than she knew, but that did nothing to soothe the nerves that spiked and frayed whenever she was frightened. She hadn't the slightest idea who the monstrous man had been or what position he held in King Endrik's personal guard, but while she was curious there were too many reasons to avoid him instead of searching for answers. Prince Kilian, the second eldest of all her brothers and the finest archer among them, noticed that recognizable look of curiosity on her face and sat beside her. He chuckled as she jumped, clearly intending to startle her on purpose.

    "Do you know who that was?" he asked in a low hush.

    "No. I don't want to know." Aurelia fumbled with her hands in her lap, watching as her father and mother prepared themselves for the meeting with King Endrik. "He's very ferocious, is my guess."

    "They call him The Demon." Kilian lowered his voice another notch and stressed the stranger's nickname as if to spook her with his words. "They say he can split a man in half with his greatsword, and that he can crush someone's skull with his bare hands and kill children while they sleep. He takes women into his bed while they scream, and then he rips them into pieces and sacrifices them to this death god named--"

    "Shut it, will you?" Roylan, her gallant elder brother and the heir to their father's throne, stood frowning on the opposite end of the room with his sword in hand. "He's just a man, Lia. Men can't rip people into pieces and can't split someone with a greatsword. And even if he tried, I wouldn't let him. You've got nothing to fear." Roylan sheathed the blade and strapped the belt around his hips, securing it with a tug and turning to his younger brother. "Don't scare her. You're drunk."

    "Am not."

    To prove his point, Roylan lifted up the empty bottle of brandy laying just beside where Kilian had been laying. "You are. Get up, get your things together. We're meeting with that bastard king and putting an end to this war, and getting separated from Revelle for good. I think you'll want to be sober when we sign the treaty."

    "Do you think he'll actually do it?" Aurelia ignored Kilian's grumbling and stood from her seat by the large family table, fear caked on the tone of her voice. "King Endrik, do you think he'll let us be free? I don't like the way he looked at me earlier, like he wanted something. I can't help but feel like this is all so...wrong." The present members of the Highlier family had turned to listen to the young princess's words, and it was clear that each and every one of them found merit in what she had to say. "It isn't in King Endrik's personality to simply allow us freedom. We know what the refugees fleeing the west have told us, we know what he's capable of and yet he seemed so subdued this morning. I don't know him to be a man of subtle nature. I think he's hiding something."

    Eddard looked to his wife, then to his three present sons, and finally to his young daughter. "You're so smart for your age," he praised, though there was stress in his voice. "You're right. I don't think he'd be foolish enough to try anything too drastic, though. Remind me to read the fine print of the treaty if he's already written one. Boys," he said, gesturing to his sons. "Don't forget to leave your weapons here. They don't allow them in the monastery and no matter what, we will be respectful to God's men. Is that understood?"

    "Yes, father." The brothers gave each other looks of hesitation that did not go unnoticed by their sister. It seems even they are nervous. They have every right to be. When she looked to the great King Eddard once more her heart was filled with pride and dread, feeling the beginnings of anxious nausea creep up through her stomach. Her father read it too, and he crossed the room to gently place his hands on either side of her cheeks and press his lips to her forehead.

    "Nothing will hurt you as long as I'm around," he told her in earnest. "I promise, little dove. Now go and get your cloak, hm? You don't want to freeze before we arrive."

    ~~~~~~~~~~~

    The ceilings of the great Astaran monastery stretched as high as the clouds, Aurelia observed, so high that birds flocked between little openings in the stone and made nests high above where worship took place. Arched windows with stained glass painted pictures from the Holy Books surrounded the circular dome and the altars for prayer like colored glowing lights, gifts from Astar Himself. In the distance Aurelia heard the echoes of singing in a foreign language, but the sound of so many male voices stirred something in her and she closed her eyes to revel in the sound a moment. Her nerves were soothed considerably. If the monks can find song in a place and time like this, perhaps God is blessing this meeting. Perhaps He will allow us to be successful. She clutched the pendant around her neck once more, for luck and hope, and followed her father deeper into the cold stone monastery that so many worshipers called home.

    At the end of a long, twisted hallway the small group of Highliers along with Ser Taurus and ten of the house's best knights were led to where King Endrik had hailed them. The great dining room was spacious enough to seat fifty at minimum, and the windows facing north gave the oval-shaped room a breathtaking view of the mountain range where the Northern Realm called home. Aurelia had always been one to appreciate beauty when and wherever it was to be found, and at the sight of snow-capped peaks in all directions through thick, transparent glass, the princess wore a smile as genuine as any. She pressed a gentle hand to the surface of the glass, marveling inwardly at the drastic change in temperature before noticing a rather different sensation on the small of her back. A hand? She turned quickly to newly approached King Endrik, who had moved entirely too close in such a quick amount of time, though he wore a smile and made no move to close the small distance between them any further. His sudden presence had shocked everyone when he spoke, and Roylan moved to draw thrust the king away from his child sister before Eddard reached out a hand and stopped him. Both men wore frustrated grimaces, upset that Endrik had dared move so close to their princess so soon.

    "Beautiful, isn't it?" the western king asked with a singsong voice that suggested he was completely comfortable in his environment. "I've hardly seen anything so spectacular. The way the mountains touch the clouds, the majestic slope of the rock...beautiful. Truly."

    "I agree," Aurelia replied, though her voice had grown infinitely less confident. She was entirely uncomfortable with the way he touched her, so assured in his situation, so at ease in resting hands on teenage girls. She gave a nervous glance to her father, knowing nothing could be done. "If you like mountains so much, Your Grace, you should come to my country and see the Bastion Ranges once our treaty is signed."

    "Your country?" The king gave a great laugh, a dark one that rang through the hall, parading his knowledge of something no one else knew. "You are truly a delight, my dear." He gently grabbed her chin and turned her face toward him, and the corners of his mouth curled upward in a devious grin. He is undressing me with his eyes, she thought with a sudden chill. He is claiming me in his mind. "Lovely. Just lovely..."

    "King Endrik," came her father's stern, angered voice. "I would appreciate it greatly if you took your hands off my daughter and instead onto our treaty."

    "Treaty? Oh, yes. Apologies." The king let his hands linger a second longer before removing them entirely, stepping forward towards the table and gesturing for the Highlier family to take their seats. "I was simply admiring your daughter's beauty. Please, sit. Would you like some wine? The vintage this far up in the mountains is spectacular."

    Aurelia no longer paid attention to the conversation. She and her father locked eyes and she shared her fear with him, feeling goosebumps prickle on her arms at the memory of Endrik's smile, and as she made her way to her seat she met the gaze of a demon at the back of the room.
     
    #5 Sansa Stark, Nov 11, 2014
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2014
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  6. The Meeting on Mount Lyren, red
    Deliberations ran long into the night, the two kings discussing where the border would be drawn, trade agreements, and other matters of state. Matters that were of little interest to Darion, yet he was forced to remain at the king's side on the off chance that disagreements turned to insults, insults to fists, fists to blades.

    If only his lord father hadn't pushed for him to take up a position in the king's guard, he could be somewhere else, somewhere less... tedious. But no, because of some meaningless oath he'd made, he was resigned to being at the monarch's beck and call for the rest of his days. The prospect of bowing and scraping to that slimeball of a king had never been an appealing one to The Demon, and it became less so as he came to know the man personally over time.

    Well, it could be worse. At least there was this pretty thing to look at. He couldn't help but keep his eye on the Highlier girl, young though she was her beauty was just beginning to bloom. Pity she'd likely be married off to a fool lordling some day, but that's just how the world worked. If Endrik had his way, he'd likely take the girl for himself, but doubtful was it that Eddard would abandon his precious daughter to such a snake. In that regard, she was lucky.

    The girl in question was seated next to her brother on the far end of the table. Their eyes had met more than once, and he could see she feared him as many did; but there was something else to it as well, something he couldn't quite place. Perhaps it was just morbid curiosity on her part.

    Lost in his thoughts as he was, he didn't immediately notice the robed monk that had approached him from the side, arms folded in silent patience as he waited for The Demon to address him. Darion craned his head towards the holy man, quirking a brow. "What do you want?" He asked, his tone sounding a little impatient.

    Wordless, the man extended a hand from his baggy sleeve, holding out a sealed scroll to Darion. After the demon took it, the man crossed his arms over his chest and bowed, a customary gesture for the Arastans, then promptly took his leave. Noticing the seal bore the King's gryphon insignia, he hastily opened it and read the words scrawled on the parchment. His eyes widened just slightly, a realization just now dawning on him.

    So that's your play.

    A small exhale escaped his lips as he crumpled the paper and stuffed it in a pouch, his focus falling on his king at the center of the grand table.

    "You've no right to those lands, Endrik. For generations the Wallard family has held the Nemeran Valley, by all rights it is theirs."

    Endrik lounged in his royal seat, leaning back as he downed another gulp of ale. Wiping his mouth, he placed his goblet aside, shaking his head at an indignant Eddard. "You haven't held those lands since the war began, my king. What's left of House Wallard is holed up at your keep in Lunaris, while Trent Banastor has been overseeing the valley for more than two years now."

    Eddard's fist slammed the table, clenched as tight as it possibly could be. "'Overseeing'? Slaughtering innocent men, setting fire to villages and stripping the land clean of its resources, is that what you call 'overseeing'?" The King of the East took the plight of his people seriously, while the smirking monarch across from him was quite the inverse. He seemed to enjoy the reaction he was getting out of Eddard, so concerned for every insignificant little person.

    One of the king's advisors, a diminutive man in small glasses chimed in. "We understand how you feel, your grace, but the hard stone mined from that region is of strategic importance to our nation. If I may propose a compromise?" He looked to his king, who offered a short nod of approval.

    "Thank you, your grace. Perhaps the Wallard family could indeed return to their ancestral home at the Blackridge Keep to rule over the valley once more, while the quarries working under our king's banner could remain operational. Would that be a fair exchange to you, your, uh... graces?" The advisor looked between the two, as if hoping he hadn't offended either in some way.

    There was a short silence that felt as long as a year, Endrik and Eddard staring one another down. Elbows on the arm of his chair, the king folded his hands in his lap, finally bringing the unnerving quiet to an end. "I believe that is agreeable."

    All eyes fell on Eddard now, his lips pursed in thought. He hated gving any ground to the bastard, but remembering the faces of the family sequestered away in his home, the Wallards that had been cut to a fraction of what their great family was... they'd suffered more than anyone else. It would be some small concession for them to return to their lands, ravaged as they were. But to have agents of Endrik's operating within their borders, he knew it would leave him with constant unease.

    With a sigh, he gave a curt nod, he relayed his tacit approval, grudging as it was. The tense atmosphere hanging in the air relaxed marginally, as the various members of the council turned to one another to discuss matters in hushed whispers. The two kings stared one another down in silence, the King of the West displaying a smarmy smirk while the King of the East wore an unamused scowl. Endrik was enjoying this just as much as Eddard was not.

    Raising a hand to quiet the room, Endrik stood, ready to address the assembled council. "I do believe that brings this peace accord to an end. Unless the council has any other matters to discuss?" Most shook their heads, and the king continued on. "Very well then. The pact between our kingdoms is official in the eyes of men, but we must now make it official in the eyes of our God as well. Master Kyras?" Endrik turned on his heel, looking to a gaunt old gentleman with leathery skin, at the far end of the table. "Are you ready to begin the ceremony?"

    Kyras cleared his throat, his voice raspy when he spoke. "Yes, your grace. Our acolytes have assembled in the Sacred Sanctum of God, and are prepared to begin chant at your leave."

    "Excellent. We shall begin momentarily. Unless there are any objections?" Endrik looked to Eddard, who merely shook his head.

    "None."

    The King of the East rose to his feet, determination in his eyes. The family and trusted advisors at his side joined him, just as ready to see it through as he was. "Let us be done with it."

    "Pardon, your grace, but..." Kyras interjected, stepping away from his seat. "Tradition holds that only God's chosen devout may enter, and only men of a king's divine lineage as well." The Master Monk gave a respectful bow as the other had, not intending to offend the king with his words.

    Eddard turned to his wife and daughter, regretful that they could not join him. "Sorry, loves. I'll rejoin you shortly once this is done with." He embraced them both, planting a kiss upon his daughter's forehead and another upon his wife's lips. With one last assuring smile, he looked to Ser Taurus, who nodded in response, needing no further command. The knight ushered the two noble ladies away, leading them back out the front door of the temple.

    Glancing to his sons, Eddard cocked his head towards the master monk, who was already ascending the stairs to the second level of the monastery, the opposing king in tow. The three Highlier men were quick to catch up.

    The Demon, meanwhile, had stepped out quite some time ago.

    ~~~~

    The upper echelon was just as breathtaking as the former. A sweeping circular chamber, the concave ceiling of stone emblazoned with an ancient diagram of the sun and moon within one another, at the very center a glass window that refracted the moonlight so as to shine as a glorious beam onto the altar below. Gathered around it, the Astaran monks in their black robes knelt in their traditional circular pattern of prayer, somehow more silent than they usually were.

    As they reached the end of the staircase, Kyras bent over to catch his breath, while Eddard and his sons gazed about the chamber in reverence.

    "Our ancestors stood in this very hall, over a thousand years ago. To be here, where the first of our name took their holy vows... there is no higher honor." Roylan clasped his hands together in prayer, and even Kilian, who was not usually as serious as his brother, did so as well.

    "Come, King Eddard. There will be plenty of time to stand around looking awestruck later." Endrik's voice brought Eddard back to the present, watching as the opposing king strode towards the altar carelessly, Kyras close behind. Grimacing, he folllowed, his sons behind his back.

    The sooner we finish our dealings with this lout, the better.

    Upon the simple altar, a single dagger was laid, engraved with the ancient symbols of their God. He'd seen the priests in Lunaris use a similar tool in their ceremonies, but this knife in particular appeared as ancient as the temple itself. Kyras took the dagger in both hands, mumbling an inaudible prayer under his breath. He beckoned the two kings come close, and the two did as they were bid.

    "Men of valor, men of faith, men of honor. Only the highest among men can make a sacred pact that God can affirm. Do you profess to be such?"

    The King in the West and the King in the East both nodded. Kyras continued.

    "If this is true, may this sacred covenant of Arastor hold firm for all eternity. My kings, place your hands on the altar, one atop the other. To prove that you are worthy of this blessing, a sacrifice must be made. You will offer your blood as tribute, the mingling of your great bloodlines will ensure the validity of this pact to God."

    Endrik was the first to step forward, placing his palm on the altar as the monk had ordered. Eddard seemed taken aback, unfamiliar with this ritual; the chapels from his home never used blood to form ties... But if a little bit of pain now could avert more disaster in the future, then he was prepared to risk it.

    Striding forward, he placed his hand over Endrik's, shooting the other king a glare before returning his attention to Kyras, who was now chanting an ancient verse he hadn't heard before. The head monk held the dagger high over his head, turning it so as to face downards.

    "And so the pact is made." The knife came down.

    Only one man flinched.

    Eddard stumbled backwards, eyes wide with shock. "Y-You..." He grasped at his chest, the blade plunged thoroughly into his heart. The sound of his sons' enraged outcries were distant as his back collided with the ground. He glimpsed the monks in black rise, drawing blades from their robes and charging towards the altar.

    Killian was cut down mercilessly, throat sliced to the bone. He fell to his knees, disbelief painting his face along with blood. Roylan fought back valiantly, but was stabbed from all sides by their swords, his vengeful roar silenced by a blade through the eye.

    Tears streaming from his eyes, Eddard laid a helpless witness to this atrocity. His vision began to blur, the world drained of all color. In his last moments, the shadowed face of a crowned figure came into view, looming over him.

    "Farewell, my king."
     
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  7. Genocide, #CC99FF The clicks of their heels and the chatter of low conversation bounced up through the towering ceilings. Coming off the high of treating with King Endrik and putting an official end to the war, Princess Aurelia and her mother began to talk excitedly about all the things they might do--build irrigation systems for their poor farmers' fields, bring light and music back to the city of Lunaris, as well as continue the series of plays that the people of their country liked to host. Acting and musical discovery were a big part of what set the East apart from the three other Realms in Revelle (which were now the only three, she presumed). Lunaris was a city of light and laughter and would be once again, under the guidance of her father and mother, under the contracts of peace settled finally after a long and grueling war. It sent Aurelia's nerves away indefinitely to think of all the positive possibilities and changes that her country would undergo.

    Every feeling in her soul was smashed with the sounds of steel on steel. Shouts and screams grew louder through the echoing corridor. Ser Taurus stood protectively in front of his queen, who brought her daughter close in attempts to keep her safe from the unknown chaos beyond. "What's happening?!" Aurelia shouted. "Ser Taurus, what's going on? I thought that Father had--"

    "AMBUSH!" Men with the Highlier sun emblazoned on their breastplates clashed swords in the distance with King Endrik's chosen men, shouting forward to the queen and princess in dire warning. Hundreds were pouring from various rooms in the halls dressed as monks and training boys, so many that the holy men were swallowed by the sacrilegious assailants. "Your Grace, Your Highness, get out of here!" called a stray soldier from the end of the battle halls. "He's tricked us, it was all a lie, he--" His voice was sliced along with the skin on his throat, and Aurelia's screams ripped through the fighting like a hot knife through butter. The queen grabbed her by the hand in a rush of desperation and broke into a mad dash for the great steps beyond. Ser Taurus followed behind, slaying whatever man had dared move for his queen and his lady and carving a fatal way towards the mouth of the summit.

    What they found on the threshold of the monastery was worse than any nightmare Aurelia had ever conjured. Tents, soldiers and horses were bathed in flame while men carrying King Endrik's banners cut down anyone in their murderous path. Highlier men lay dead and strewn like animals across fields once made for peace, adjacent to the house of God where sacred vows had been made and broken. Is there a god anymore, or is this the devil's work?

    "Aurelia," came someone's voice, but the princess was too paralyzed in terror to turn at the sound. Her shoulders were violently shaken and she turned to her mother, seeing her own trepidation reflected in hazel eyes. "Aurelia, run!"

    "W-What about you?!" The princess shook her head and gripped to the arms of her mother. "I can't go without you, Father would never--!"

    "Your father is dead." There was no way to confirm the suspicion, but Aurelia's parents had been bound in such a deep, bonding love that if her mother believed the king to have perished, it must be so. "I need to distract Endrik's men. They won't come after you if you're gone and I'm the only one here."

    "But--"

    "Listen!" The queen cupped her daughter's cheeks and wiped away the tears she found there. "Listen little dove, listen to the sound of my voice. I'm old. I can't bear any more children, I can't lead without your father by my side and I won't leave here alive. You are the hope for Lunaris. Ride for the city and tell them all of what's happened here, you were always the better rider--"

    "No!" Aurelia sobbed, gripping her mother even tighter to keep her as close as possible. "no, please!"

    "Shhhh," Esmeralda cooed, kissing her daughter's forehead. "You must. Aurelia, you must. You--"

    A crossbow bolt tore through the center of the queen's chest. Aurelia screamed and tried to hold her mother upright, feeling the heat of her blood course over her dress and skin, but she was ripped away by the arms of Western soldiers who tore at her dress and fondled what little her corset gave access to. "Nice little princess," they whispered against her ear, three men with iron grips and steeled, lustful wills. "Do you mind if we have a little fun? Don't worry. Dear ol' daddy ain't gonna stop us now."

    At the feel of lips on her neck and chest, Aurelia broke into a frenzy of panic. She lifted her knee to knock the wind out of the assailant directly in front of her leaving an opening for escape that she took without a second thought, dashing down the nearest hall to the shouts of "Bend her over the table!" and "Not so queenly now, ay?!" The men who held her gave chase, but she had a decent head start and blocked out the sounds and cries of her mother's attack. Aurelia flew open the nearest door and barricaded herself inside a bedroom, pushing over an armoire and a desk with a massive clatter to block the closed door and provide her some precious time. A way out, there has to be a way out. She turned to the window and rushed up to it, examining, wondering if she could fit through should the glass break.

    There was no time to assess. Great arms wrapped around her body and a hand clasped over her mouth, and Princess Aurelia was helpless.
     
    #7 Sansa Stark, Nov 11, 2014
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2014
    • Love Love x 1
  8. Escape From The Monastery, blue
    The princess struggled and fought with her captor, kicking wildly, grasping at the gauntlets that gripped her. It seemed she would not give up so easily, much to the man's chagrin; The Highlier in her blood just wouldn't accept surrender. With a frustrated grunt, her attacker spun her around, pinning her against the wall rather indelicately, hand still firmly clasped over her mouth to keep it shut.

    "Stop struggling, foolish girl. I'm not here to hurt you."

    Light blue met black and yellow as their eyes locked. His face was only partially illuminated by the soft moonlight streaming through the window, but she recognized him immediately. The Demon.

    She paled. Darion felt her go still, seemingly paralyzed with fear. He narrowed his eyes at the princess, the smoldering knight feeling unamused. Even she's heard the stories about me. He supposed he couldn't blame her for being afraid, but all the same he showed little patience. Glancing up at the entranceway, he heard the shouting of one soldier just outside in the hall.

    "The bitch is in here, lads! Help me get this door open!"

    The men crashed against the door, with each heavy thud it gradually began to budge, hinges loosening, cracks forming in the wood. It would not be long before it gave way, and they'd be left at the mercy of heartless cutthroats who didn't discriminate with their raping and their reaving. The Demon looked back to his captive, who was helpless to fight against him.

    "You're coming with me." His command came out stern, tone harsh. The idea clearly didn't appeal to Aurelia, thrashing in his grasp, screams muffled by steel gloves. Darion tightened his grip, eliciting a cry of pain from the princess but causing her to cease her wriggling. "Idiot girl! Would you rather be left to these cretins? They'll do worse than kill you." His warnings did little to ease her anxiety, the corners of her eyelids moist with tears.

    "I will take you to safety, whether you trust me or not." She shook her head violently, eyes scrunched tight. Clearly, she did not. It was of little consequence, however. With a sigh, he shook his head, releasing the prisoner from his hands. Before she could even manage to speak, or run, or fight, his gauntlet made contact with her temple, and just like that the poor girl was out. She fell forward into his arms, The Demon foisting the dainty thing up onto his shoulder as if she were a sack of flour.

    "Sorry girl, but I don't have time to play nice." He made his way to an unlit torch on the wall, tugging at the base of it, it gave way just slightly. There was a soft click, followed by the sound of stone sliding on stone; a pathway was open to them, Darion hastily stepping through. As quickly as it had opened, it had closed again, shutting tight just as men came spilling into the room.

    "Now where the fuck do I go from here?"


    None Withstood, red
    Fires blazed in the courtyard, the roar of raging battle defeaning to the ears. It was more slaughter than battle, in truth, what remnants of the Highlier host being mercilessly put to the sword by the king's sworn and the sellswords masquerading as holy men. The stone gate of the temple flung open, pushing the corpses of dead Eastmen laid against it aside. Endrik strode confidently through the breach, a squad of twenty knights in platemail filing out in front of the temple steps, creating a buffer between their liege and the chaos ensuing around them. The assassins of Eddard and his sons stalked close behind, some with the regal blood spilt of kings and princes still splayed on their holy vestments.

    The king took a deep breath, the scent of blood and smoke filling his nostrils. It was the smell of victory. In one fell swoop, he had cut the head from his enemies; without the Highliers for the people to rally behind, returning the east to the fold was all but assured. Even more so, once he claimed that precious little princess for himself. The King's lips curled into a self-serving grin, all too proud of the perfect outcome of this masterful deception.

    The promise for peace, the endless hours of debate, the ceremony; all a charade. It had to seem real, after all, otherwise the good king might've sensed his treachery. The look on Eddard's face, the shock and grief in his eyes as he watched his sons die... nothing in this life had ever given him such pleasure.

    The faux headmaster moved next to the king, pulling his robes up over his head and discarding them on the ground, revealing his chainmail vest and black jerkin beneath. On the gaunt old man's shoulder, the tattoo of a crimson scorpion was inked into his flesh, the king eying the depiction briefly as he turned to face his hired killer.

    "You've done well, Joren. The Red Venom has never been a disappointment before, but tonight you and your guild truly excelled. My heart leapt with joy when that blade met the foolish king's heart. Quite the dramatic display indeed; I would be tempted to have you enact an epic tale at one of our theatres in the capital, if I did not fear that to be a waste of your talents." The king laughed at his own joke, practically giddy over his victory.

    "We're glad yer pleased wit' our performance, yer grace," Joren responded, his voice deeper and raspier than it had been before, tone flat. The killer thumped his fist over his heart, half-bowing to his royal employer. "But I 'ope yeh'll express yer gratitude in more'n words." If he'd been a normal man, the king might've punished Joren for what could be considered impudence; but the old goat was was not some mere fool, a fact the king knew quite well. Instead of calling to have him flogged, he simply kept smiling.

    "Of course, of course. I'm feeling quite generous at the moment, in fact. What's say we pay you twice what was promised, and an extra two hundred gold for every noble Highlier wretch that died here tonight?" There was a resounding cheer from the assassins, Joren himself beaming a set of gnarled yellow teeth.

    "That'll do just fine, m'king, just fine indeed." He scratched the tufts of patchy gray hair on his chin, calculating the transaction in his head. "So two 'undred for the dead king, four 'undred for his dead sons, an' another two 'undred for the dead queen. Oh, an' that pretty one," Joren licked his cracked lips, remembering the succulent princess that sat on the opposite side of the table when the faux peace negotiation was in session. "She dead too, I reckon? Shame, tha'. Woulda liked a turn with the lass 'afore she was gutted."

    The king looked away from the assassin, his gaze returning to the carnage before him. "Yes, she is dead as well," he lied, deeming it unnecessary for this killer to know the truth. "You're right though, she was quite the beauty." And in time, she'll be mine. His internal addition made his smirk all the wider, that insidious mind devising all manner of impure activities he would subject the poor girl to. Oh, he was definitely looking forward to that as well.

    "Pity. Well then, tha's..." Joren counted the amount out on his fingers. "Tha's a thousand golden crowns added up, eh? Yah really are in a gen'rous mood, m'king." he wrung his hands excitedly, a greedy glint in his eyes.

    "Small price to pay for a kingdom."


    Clear Instructions, blue
    Heavy footfalls echoed off the walls in the subterranean tunnel, the faint sound of water dripping from the ceiling in the cavern. It seemed the further he delved, the darker the cave grew, Darion's path lit only by the soft glow of the torch in his hands. In his other, he clutched a tattered piece of parchment scrawled with a map of the cave system, all the while keeping his arm wrapped around the unconscious girl's legs, so as not to allow her to slip from his shoulder; he'd already given her one bump on the head, he wouldn't be responsible for another. It was a careful balancing act, to be sure.

    "We're almost out of here," he whispered, speaking more to himself than the princess. Even so, the sound of his voice made her stir momentarily, groaning quietly before falling silent once more. The smallest of smirks broke out on his scarred face. "Yes, that's it. Get your beauty sleep."

    It wasn't long before he saw faint light coming from the end of the tunnel, the dawn's early rays outlining their exit. The carved arch led out onto a wide bluff, Darion stopping a moment to catch a breath of fresh air. Finally, they'd made it through that dank, musty cave. But that was the easy part.

    The path continued further down, onto a lower cliff where a tethered horse, along with one of the king's men donned in the crimson tabard of the Argus house, sat dozing aside a lit brazier, gryphon's head helmet tucked under his arm. At the sound of approaching footsteps he jumped, nearly tumbling into the flames by accident.

    "By the gods, what took you? I've been waiting here for nearly a whole day!" The soldier caught his breath as Darion moved to set the girl upon the the horse's saddle, ignoring the smaller man's complaints. The accomplice scrambled over to The Demon, handing out a burlap cloak. "Gotta keep her covered, sir. Don't want anyone recognizin' her. Otherwise the plan's compromised, right?" With his infamous contemptuous stare, Darion tore the garment from his hands, carefully placing it over the princess and pulling the hood low.

    "Just tryna help, mate. My instructions was clear." The guard crossed his arms, shaking his head. "I guess yours was, too. The king's pretty meticulous when it comes to plans, seems like. I suppose yours was pretty clear too, eh? 'Course there's only thing left to do now, I reckon. Get the bleedin' hell outta here."

    Making sure his equipment, provisions, as well as the princess herself were properly secured, Darion calmly moved over to the talkative soldier, towering over him uncomfortably so. "There's one other thing."

    "Oh yeah? Er... What's that? I hope it's me gettin' paid, because I- HRK!" He never got a chance to finish his thought, six inches of steel in his gut being the source of his interruption. With a sickly noise, the dagger withdrew, spurting crimson. The injured soldier stumbled toward the edge of the cliff, gurgling in pain. He didn't get far, The Demon spinning him around, slicing the man from ear to ear as easily as a normal man would cut bread. With a small shove, the loose end went tumbling over the side.

    Wiping the bloodied knife on his pant leg, he watched the body grow more distant, shrinking as it fell further and further. There was no remorse in his expression; there was nothing at all. His instructions had been pretty clear as well, it appeared.

    Untying the horse, he saddled up, holding Aurelia firmly with one arm, while the other gripped the rains. He spurred his mount onward, the beast's hooves clopping steadily while they descended further down the bluff. From here, it was going to be a long ride.

    High above them, billowing smoke streaked into the sky, black clouds obscuring the morning sunrise.
     
    #8 ConstructPylons, Nov 13, 2014
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2014
    • Love Love x 1
  9. A New Mission, green The cold had never bitten so fiercely. His heart weighed heavier than any armor or crumbling rock and crushed him more than the depths of the sea. Confident that he had lost his pursuers to the labyrinth of the mountains, he sat atop a boulder, held his face in blood-stained hands, and wept in all his dangerous failures.

    What have I done...?

    He could still see her when he closed his stinging eyes. An arrow jutting out through the center of her chest, puncturing lung and bone alike as the poor princess screamed. He could envision all too well the sight of Argus men thrusting her over the table while she shouted orders, blood pooling in front of her as each drop signified the seconds of her life slipping away to nothing. Taurus had slain twenty men alone in trying to reach her, desperate to save his queen, his love, from the arms of those who savaged her. It was only after the light in her eyes had gone that he clutched her cried orders to heart, writing them on his soul permanently and fled the scene of such heinous bloodshed.

    My daughter, he wept, sitting upon a rock on the open cold. My beautiful daughter, my granddaughter, my grandsons, my family...

    House Ghent had been the poorest of the eastern houses when Esmeralda was young. On a meeting as chance and fate-ridden as there was, she had been chasing a bird and happened to run right into the heir of Lunaris in the market streets. The guards had thrust their spears at the intruder, intent on protecting the young lord from a potential assassination, but the gracious Eddard de Highlier had been so struck by Esmeralda Ghent's beauty that he offered her a cup of wine, which turned to many days at each other's sides, which led to love and marriage. Overnight, Lord Eddard had raised House Ghent from nothing to glory as he found love in it's precious daughter. Taurus remembered the births of all five of his grandsons, and of course the precious Aurelia with hair as golden as his in youth. He remembered their first steps and their giggles and laughter, how happy his only daughter had been in the arms of the man she loved. He had watched her sell her pretty dresses for food and grow to be become a queen any knight should fight for.

    Even in his grief, Ser Taurus Ghent found the strength to memorialize those memories and hold them closer than any riches or glory in the world. The glory of fathering Esmeralda will be enough for me. I will never forget.

    Brokenhearted, the mourning father and grandfather lifted himself from his temporary stop and pressed on through the valleys and rock-smothered pathways, determined not to let his precious daughter's life be lost in vain. There were still two Highliers left in the world, after all--the two boys that King Eddard had so wisely left behind, little Prince Osten at age seven, and the new King Julian who had just turned eighteen before the winter's end. True, they had the entirety of the Eastern army surrounding them to protect Lunaris and their lands with the great strength of sixty-thousand, but news wouldn't travel with five-hundred Eastmen slain on Mount Lyren. He was the sole survivor, he had to be, and he would use that gift to lay down his life and his everything at the feet of his grandson; at the feet of his king.

    Taurus gently pressed a hand against the sharp agony in his rib cage, ignoring the hot liquid he felt gathering there. God, he prayed in a final moment of desperation, looking up to the sky as further gusts of bitter winds whipped against such a broken man. Please God, let me live.


    Captive in the Hands of Death, #CC99FF Thunderstorms raged in her head, accompanied by the pound of violent war drums. Such agony as it was, Aurelia struggled to open her eyes and adjust to the blinding light that bombarded her vision and aggravated the concussion further. Aurelia couldn't help but whimper softly and hold her head until the dizziness and the misery slipped from fingers, even in the dullest amount. She crawled forward slowly once vision had been restored to her, moving through the dirt and twigs and rocks of the forest floor until she reached the small sanctuary of a simple pond. She yanked the cattails from their roots and hovered over the rippling glass on the surface of the water, letting the sun illuminate what she wished she hadn't seen.

    Her dress had been torn and her corset partially unlaced, her eyes were red and puffy with the curse of tears, and the side of her head was caked in dirt and blood. Hastily, Aurelia cupped the water in the pond and splashed it upon her face, rubbing the dirt and sweat and misery away from the fleshy mask of her tenderness. She dared not touch the head trauma, however, for even the slightest pressure in the afflicted area sent aching spasms of agony through every inch of nerves. Confident that she had cleaned up enough to get to the nearest town, she stood again to assess her exact location.

    Her eyes cast upward toward the billowing smoke painting the horizon in blacks and grays. Like a flash of lightning that strikes the same place twice, the events of the previous night trampled through her mind in a bloody streak of genocide. Aurelia had a moment of panic, a mix of tears and gasps of pain from some mysterious wound in her leg, her arm and her chest, and the remaining option to her remained clear. She turned to look for the best route in which to walk when her eyes fell on a dark figure watching her from where he leaned against a tree.

    The Demon, I remember!

    Before he could speak, she screamed and broke into a mad dash for anywhere, any direction that was far from him. Branches of trees scratched and ripped at her skin, drawing blood in places that were already numbed from trauma. She felt nothing. Only fear, only desperation. The wound on her leg continued to worsen with each determined plunge forward, however, and before long it had given out entirely and send the tattered princess diving into the dirt.

    Aurelia didn't dare look back to see if The Demon followed her. She scrambled to her feet once more in a final effort to preserve the life her mother had died for.
     
    • Love Love x 1
  10. Nowhere To Run, blue
    With the noon sun overhead and that forsaken monastery quite a ways behind them, The Demon had found a nice clearing within the sparse forest below Mount Lyren to set up camp. He'd laid the still unconscious girl against a nearby evergreen, gentle this time as the journey thus far had already covered her in all manner of scrapes and bruises... some he'd given her himself. Even in her haggard state, she still managed to look fetching somehow. The thought made him shake his head, a dark chuckle escaping his lips. God, what is wrong with me?

    Darion sighed, brushing a strand of the girl's silken hair behind her ear and examining the bloodied spot painting her forehead, the point where he'd struck her. He never liked hurting women, even less ones so young. Not to say he hadn't put his fair share in the ground, but there was never any delight in it. It was neither empathy nor softness that made him feel that way; the simple truth was that women were usually weak, and what pride could a man take in killing a foe that offered no challenge in the first place? None.

    Rising to his feet, Darion took one last glance around the campfire. It had just occurred to him how badly he needed to take a piss, having been so focused on his task at hand. He lumbered off into the forest to find a tree to relieve himself on, returning not soon after... but the girl was not where he'd left her.

    His gaze followed the trail of flattened grass the princess left in her wake where she crawled, observing the disoriented girl as she seemed to be slowly coming to her senses. Just as she turned to meet eyes with him, the fear she showed before returned in its entirety, as if his presence was the final confirmation that the nightmare she'd endured was not a nightmare after all.

    He knew she was going to run. She could either flee, or be savaged by the monster she'd heard all those grisly tales about. Not much of a choice, really. He wasn't about to let her get away so easily, however. If he'd let the girl slip through his fingers, there'd be no returning to the king, unless he favored having his head mounted on the gates of the capital. With another exhausted exhale, Darion went trudging through the woods after her, deceptively quick in the heavy plate he wore.

    The girl was faster than he'd have given her credit for, but The Demon wasn't long in closing the gap between them. When his hand gripped took hold of her, she cried out in terror. The captive princess kicked and screamed all the way back to camp, dragged along by the arm in such an undignified manner, akin to how a parent would deal with a misbehaving child. "You're not going anywhere unless I say so, princess."

    He bound her hands and feet with leather straps, once again laying her by the evergreen closest to the pond. With the girl secure, he plopped down in the dirt to rest, weary from their travels and even more weary from dealing with this fearful child. The sooner she was out of his hair, the better.

    He took quiet vigil over his prisoner, staring at her in uncomfortable silence. Occasionally he'd chew on bits of hard jerky he pulled from his pouch, or take a swig from his waterskin. He glanced down to the food in his hand, the drink in his other, then the girl in his captivity. Gulping down one last bite, he finally spoke.

    "...Don't suppose you're hungry, are you?"
     
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  11. Captive in the Hands of Death, #CC99FF Her head throbbed as he dragged her across the dirt like an animal. It was only in the remaining few minutes that she realized how truly pointless that fighting would be. The Demon stood over fourteen inches taller than she, with great wide shoulders and every ounce of strength to fill them and a booming voice that could scare the skin from any creature that dare drew breath in his presence. He could break me like a twig, came the thoughts with panic close in tow. He wouldn't hesitate, either. He would crush my skull in if it please him, and then I would be nothing, just like my parents and my brothers. Aurelia de Highlier would be no more.

    Of course, the princess was no fool either. There had to be a reason for the infamous Demon to keep her alive and breathing, whether it was for personal gain or something more perverse. Perhaps King Endrik had ordered The Demon to sneak her away from the battle so he could have his way with her at last, like he had so desperately wanted in the bowels of the God-forsaken monastery. Perhaps The Demon himself would whisk her away to some far-off castle and hole her up with nothing but rats and spiders to feed from. Or, one of the less invasive options, maybe the brute would sell her to her brother in Lunaris for ransom. Julian is king, now. I bet he would pay a pretty price. But by the direction the sun was rising and the gentle creep of shadows upward across the mountains, she knew that idea was far from accurate to the truth. We're going the wrong direction. West, he's taking me west. She stared at him incredously to keep him in her line of sight, more for her own protection than the desire to look upon his face.

    When he threw her down upon the thrush of evergreen, the princess gave a cry as her leg inflamed from a wound she could not see. Aurelia pulled up the skirts of her dirtied gown of pale teal and gold tinted with blood, gasping at a deep gash on the outside of her thigh just inches above the knee. Blood glistened along the pale softness of her skin, and when she moved to touch the wound her body tensed in a great wince. Aurelia threw the cloth of her dress down again to keep The Demon's eyes averted, though nothing stopped the chills of fear from trembling her delicate features.

    "H-Hungry," she stated, glaring over to her captor with eyes of fire and daggers laced with pain. "How could I p-possibly be hungry...after all I have seen, after all your king's men have done..." She shook her head and scoffed. "I don't want your food."

    Aurelia looked to the sky to keep tears off her face, not wanting to allow him a glimpse of her overwhelming sorrow.
     
    #11 Sansa Stark, Nov 14, 2014
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2014
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  12. Caretaker from Hell, blue
    The girl had more spirit than he'd imagined, he'd give her that. Even though she was clearly at his mercy and obviously quite rattled, she remained defiant. Most girls her age would be in shambles by now, but this one, she was made of sterner material... or at least she appeared to be. Perhaps the severity of her situation was raging inside, having yet to truly sink in. He would clarify matters for her.

    "Your father is dead," he stated simply, through a mouthful of dried meats, "Your grandfather is dead, your mother is dead, your brothers are dead, all the men your father brought along are dead." There was no malevolence in his voice as he spoke, despite the nature of his words. "As far as anyone knows, you're dead too. There's no point in running, because no one is looking for you. No one yet knows what's happened at Lyren."

    Pausing to take another swig, he continued shortly after. "If the news does get out, the king will likely spin the story to make your family seem the guilty party, the little cunt." If he'd spoken his mind so freely in front of the king, he'd be on the chopping block within the day; but somehow, he doubted the Highlier girl would mind so much. Doubtful she had a positive opinion about the snake when they'd met before, now even less so.

    "Cunt that he is, I still have orders." Getting to his feet, The Demon casually strode his way over to the tree she was propped up against. After looming over her for an uneasy second, he crouched down to her level, staring at her with all the expression of a statue. He took a rag from his belt, dabbing at the bloody bruise on her head in some attempt to clean it, though by no means was he an experienced apothecary. He specialty lied in inflicting wounds, not tending to them.

    "First things first, you need to be seen to. Didn't mean to handle you so roughly, but you weren't being cooperative." His gaze fell downward, remembering the gash she was quick to conceal. Unashamedly he hiked her skirt up, just enough so that he could examine the lesion on her thigh, much to the princess's protest. Bound as she was, there wasn't much she could do to fight back. His eyes met hers for a brief moment, before he stood, shaking his head. "I didn't do this to you. You should count yourself lucky I came along when I did, girl."

    Darion stepped back to his horse for a moment, grabbing hold of the cloak he'd used to conceal her and tearing off a piece cloth from the end, quickly finding his way back over to Aurelia. Pouring a bit of water onto the rag he'd been using, he cleaned the wound as much as he could, then bandaged the cut to the best of his abilities. It would do for now.

    "There's a village not far from here. Probably have a healer or doctor of some sort. We'll rest a little longer then head that way. Hmm." Darion looked down at her, scratching his chin in thought. "Wouldn't hurt to find you some new clothes. Can't say a lady in such a gown would be inconspicuous here, torn as it is."


    God Have Mercy, maroon
    Wooden wheels rolled down the road, a sea of trees and hills between the horse-drawn wagon and the horizon far in the distance, the beautiful blue sky, clouds appearing as though they were a painting brushed onto the horizon. One portly merchant and his son were the two sole travelers on this solitary road, fine enough with the pair as they'd had yet to be attacked by brigands or harassed by the king's soldiers. It wasn't often that their excursions between cities were so uneventful; they were thankful for as much.

    "Beautiful day, eh boy?" The chubbier, older one cheered in excitement, slapping his sleight son on the back. The youth grinned, nodding in agreement.

    "Aye dad, couldn't ask fer a better trip, thought f'sure we'd lose half our wares on the way," the son glanced back to look at their cart, still packed to the brim with barrels of fish, crates of vegetables, and other numerous, miscellaneous things. As he turned, he caught sight of a rising cloud of gray smoke in the distance, coming from what looked to be the other side of some large mountain. He was surprised he'd missed it before.

    His smile faded just a tad, tapping his father on the shoulder to get his attention. "Dad, there's... a lot of smoke up in the air back there."

    The father shrugged, not finding it to be all that relevant. "Probably just the Astarans doing an old ritual, or something of the sort. Their ways are ancient compared to ours, but who are we to judge?"

    The boy returned his focus to the front, a feeling of unease crawling over his skin. Just as he was to inquire further, he noticed his father pulling on the reigns, slowing the horse until they came to a full stop. Just up ahead, his eyes fell on the reason why.

    Laying by the wayside, a figure in tattered black robes was strewn in the grass, covered in blood, unmoving. The older of the two seemingly recognized the vestments he wore, quickly hopping off of the cart as he ran to the check the body. Hesitant at first, the boy soon followed.

    His father had already turned the body over when he approached, the not-quite-so dead man grasping at the trader's wrist and gasping for air, eyes wide with shock. Without needing to be asked, the boy ran over with his canteen, offering it to the bedraggled fellow. He drank of it eagerly until it was taken away, nodding his exasperated appreciation.

    "A-Astar... Astar bless you both... I thought.... I thought I was dead..." his voice was feeble, but his strength seemed to be returning, the elderly man trying to stand. The two travelers helped him up, dragging him back over to the cart, letting him rest against the side of the wagon.

    "What happened to you, my friend?" The merchant asked, kneeling next to him. The wrinkled man sputtered and cough, grasping at his chest.

    "Bandits... attacked me on the road, I-I... was delivering candles to the monastery..." he shook his head weakly, still somewhat in shock. "They beat me, took my horse... I-I was lucky to escape with my life... I very well could have if you kind souls hadn't found me... thank you. By God, thank you so much..."

    "I couldn't very well leave a dying man by the side of the road, much less a man of the cloth. Blasted brigands..." the father sighed, looking to his son, then back to the monk. "We're on our way to Lunaris, but we'll stop somewhere along the way to get you looked at. Is that alright?"

    "Astar shine upon you, my friend... I would be most grateful." the monk responded, grasping the merchant's offered hand as was helped to his feet again. It wasn't long before they were back on the road again, the disheveled holy man seated in between them.

    "God blesses those who help others. He will not forget this deed you did today, I promise." His voice was barely a whisper now, still as death in his seat. The father smiled and nodded his head, but the boy felt unnerved. He glanced to the monk, noticing a marking on his skin through a tear in his sleeve.

    "What's that on your shoulder? Looks almost like a scorpion."
     
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  13. Captive in the Hands of Death, #CC99FF The Demon's voice was gruff and hard, and his words were even harder. Aurelia knew it took a broken sort of man to spit out such harmful facts like they were daggers or crossbow bolts with a single purpose; shoot to kill. Did he feel nothing? Was he truly a heartless creature who prized murder and destruction the way a child would cherish a toy? There was nothing for him to gain from her torment yet he insisted on reminding her of things she already knew. Her family was gone, and the Highlier line would die with her. There was not a single doubt in her mind that King Endrik would leave things unfinished. His hired blades will be on their way to Lunaris right now to slaughter Julian and Osten, and all that I ever held dear will be plunged into dust.

    Her fists clenched the closer he moved toward her, but she was powerless to make a move against him even if her bonds were cut. She sat still while he examined her and spoke, making conclusions and decisions aloud as if taunting her with the freedom to make his choices, and while each word blew over her splintered mind like wind through a feather she was thankful his stares were not as hungry as his king's. Not yet, anyway.

    "Please d-don't touch me," she stuttered in despair, looking up at him with eyes that were terrified and confident all at once. Aurelia had no intention of leaving him under the impression that she was a fool to be taken advantage of. "If you have wine with a needle and thread, I can take care of this myself." Of course, that was a lie. She hadn't the faintest idea how to sew a wound or wash one properly, but she knew how to sew with needles and thread in the absence of flesh, and she supposed aside from the pain that it wouldn't be much different. Aurelia would do anything to keep his hands off her skin, to keep some sense of innocence still in tact. But there is no innocence left in the world, she concluded, swallowing the fire in her throat. I should never have clung to hope.

    A stupid girl is what I am. A stupid girl with stupid dreams who never learns.

    "Where are you taking me?" she asked then, attempting helplessly to stay as focused as possible. Aurelia tried to draw a map in her head of where their exact location might be in regards to Mount Lyren, due west of where peace was meant to be birthed into the world, just south of the Northern Realm's border. "Ravenfall," the princess stated in realization. "Ravenfall is the village you're speaking of. A little place off the edge of the summit, no reigning lords or ladies, just a tavern village with a few inns and lots of farmland. They say the soil at the foot of mountains is the most fertile..." Aurelia fumbled with her hands. "My father taught me that."

    And now he will never teach me anything.
     
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  14. Caretaker from Hell, blue
    He ignored her protests while tending to the wound, though at her mention of wine an uncommon smirk did spread across his lips. If he'd had the sense to bring any spirits with him, he'd be drinking that rather than the diluted drivel in his waterskin. God knows he could use a cup or two at this very moment. Unfortunate for the both of them, they did not have such a luxury.

    The girl's prediction proved to be entirely accurate, giving Darion pause. How could she have guessed so quickly? Women were taught only to stitch dresses and tend to their husband's needs, but she was far smarter than he'd imagined. He'd remember that. The Demon would have to keep a sharper eye on her than usual. Can't have her hatching some cunning escape plan in that pretty little skull of hers.

    "Your father was a smart man," he spoke, wrapping the final fold on her bandages to keep them in place. "Just not smart enough." Finished with his less than stellar triage work, The Demon carefully slid her ragged skirts back down over her legs... though there was some small part of him that was curious about what laid beneath, obvious in his eyes as his gaze trailed up her slender figure to meet hers.

    He turned his head to the side, scrunching his lids shut and extinguishing those thoughts from his head. For the first time, Darion had unintentionally let weakness bleed through to the surface, a mistake he wouldn't make again. Almost as if he were embarrassed, he looked back to her with a scowl, gauntleted hand harshly gripping her by the shoulder. The fallen knight reached for the dagger at his belt, drawing the blade and grasping it offhandedly as he practically growled his next words.

    "But you're smarter than him, girl." He took hold of the straps tied around her wrists, cutting through the leather cleanly then doing the same to those at her ankles. He stood, sheathing his weapon. "You're smart enough to know that if you run, I'll catch you. And even if I don't, someone will, and the men in these woods won't treat you as kindly as I do." He continued as he turned his back on her, heading over to his horse once again to rummage through saddlebags. "So be a good little lady and do everything I say. You might just make it through this in one piece."

    From the supplies he'd been given, he'd managed to scrounge up a suitable change of clothes for the girl, homespun wool breeches and tunic comprising a very simple but adequate replacement for her ragged dress. The garments folded neatly, he thrust the outfit in front of her, holding it out impatiently. "Wear these. Not the fancy silks you're accustomed to, but you'll live with it." When she hesitantly took them from his hands, he stepped away, eying her for a brief moment before averting his gaze.

    "Go on, then. We don't have all day. I doubt you'd rather have me do it for you."
     
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  15. Captive in the Hands of Death, #CC99FF At his last sentence, an offer to dress and undress her personally, Aurelia ripped the clothing from his hands and clutched them close to her person. As a lady born and raised, the prospect of wearing clothes intended for men was one that didn't settle right and no doubt would raise a serious of questionable looks by those they passed from town to town, but it was better than The Demon's hands anywhere near her. The princess carefully stood, though with the concussion she stumbled on her slow ascent to her feet. When she was finally upright Aurelia looked around the forest to search for any sign of watchful eyes.

    "No peeking," she warned, moving behind a tree to change, though one look at her silken teal gown torn with blood and broken seams was enough to bring tears. It had been a gift from her mother, a dress stitched in golden thread and pleated fabrics that was intended to make her shine like the sun on the day peace was brought to Lunaris. Each pull of the laces was harder than the last, a metaphorical way of removing the old life and plunging herself into a new one, an unknown future filled with darkness and terror and no chance for escape. But I can never forget the old life, for the old life is a better life and hope is my greatest weapon. Once she had changed, she kept the dress close to her chest like a memory she couldn't let go of, and the Highlier pendant remained clasped about her neck, though she made sure to stuff it in her shirt to keep him from taking it away.

    There was silence through the remainder of the day's ride. Aurelia sat in a terribly uncomfortable position in front of The Demon atop his ebony stallion, keeping her hands and body as close to herself and away from him as possible on a moving horse. She could smell the rum and the sweat and the musk off of his skin, and while not entirely unpleasant, the close proximity kept her constantly on alert. He has proven me wrong so far, she thought, desperate for a way out of the inevitable, but perhaps things will be different with a bed in the picture. Some ale, some food and the promise of warm blankets could put The Demon in a fit state for plundering his prizes, which meant nothing but agony for Aurelia de Highlier.

    I can't think about that now. All I need to worry about is escape.

    By the time Ravenfall crept up on the horizon, the sun had dipped behind the tops of forest evergreens and the village was overcast in the beginnings of an orange twilight. She could spot little farmhouses in the distance with their occupants attending to the final duties of the day before supper, bringing in their livestock to the barns or rolling bails of hay up towards the rafters. At a closer interval the hoots and hollers bursting from local inns and taverns was too much for her concussed skull to handle at once, and she visibly winced, though made no move to cover her ears in protection from another splitting headache. I want to remember the pain he causes me. Aurelia cast her eyes to the small house they were headed for, certainly not an inn by the looks of things, and suddenly her heart began to race in a panic.

    "Where are you taking me?" she demanded, looking up to the brutalized face of her captor before glancing down to a knife at his side. "This isn't an inn, what are you doing, please don't--"
     
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  16. Tending to The Princess, blue
    Any stares they received were met with a fearsome glare from The Demon, an unspoken message to keep their eyes and hands to themselves lest they'd like to have them removed; a message most of the onlookers would heed. The last thing they needed right now was attention.

    He stuck to the main road that cut through town, the clopping of hoof beats the only sound to break the serene quiet of this little hamlet sequestered away in the middle of nowhere. When they passed the tavern, easily the largest building in the village, Aurelia began to protest, apparently fearing he had some ulterior motive. Scowling, he grasped her wrists roughly, stilling her with one look of his agitated expression.

    "Calm yourself, girl. Look." As they rode up in front to the small shack, he motioned to the symbol scrawled on the front door, the white chevron within a circle that identified the homes of healers and apothecaries. "I said you needed to be seen to. Wouldn't do to have you dying on me before this is over." Without another word, he slid from the side of his steed, taking a second to glance around for any more would-be spectators.

    Before Aurelia could dismount herself, Darion's hands found themselves around her waist, eliciting an exhale of surprise from her lips as he lifted her up off the beast and set her on the ground, as if she were as light as a feather. Whether or not he was just trying to be helpful, or was just impatient, it was unclear; nonetheless Aurelia looked none too pleased with him laying his hands on her yet again, clear enough from the annoyed look on her face. Darion either didn't notice, or didn't care. Likely both.

    "Let's go." After tethering his obsidian mare, he bid her to walk towards the door, an order she obeyed after a moment's hesitation. Just as she reached out for the rusted handle, The Demon caught her in his grip once more, grabbing her by the shoulder as he is wont to do, his scarred face uncomfortably close to her flawless features.

    "Before you think of doing anything clever, like telling the doctor who you really are, just remember this: anyone you tell, I'll kill them. Keep that in mind, girl. Good little lady like you, I doubt you'd want any blood on those hands of yours." Releasing her, he grabbed the handle himself, swinging it ajar and holding it open for her to step through. The gesture, oddly enough, might've been polite given a different context.

    Quietly she stepped through the doorway into the musty, ramshackle little building. The Demon was quick to follow, swiftly pulling the door shut behind them.
     
    • Love Love x 1
  17. A Doctor's Visit, #CC99FF His quick admission to send her to a healer spoke volumes to her. I'm valuable. He can't hurt me, at least not in a way anyone would be able to see. Hugging her arms tightly around her chest, she stepped further into the small house and tried to avoid the splintered wood planks in the flooring. Tattered tapestries lined the walls and windows and a low fire burned in the hearth, in dire need of tending. Aurelia couldn't help but wonder if the home was owned by some sort of depraved lunatic who had no sense of self-preservation and care of the home, but when the poor elderly doctor emerged from the back room her heart instantly sank in shame. Who am I, to think so lowly of someone I don't know? She ignored the little fact that, by that right, she shouldn't be judging Darion as a monster either.

    "Hello hello!" came the pleasant voice followed by a friendly wave. "Good evenin', little lady. What can I do for ye?" The doctor's brows raised to see the massive brute standing ominously in the doorway, and the previous joy turned to a wave of unease. "Did this man hurt ye? He the father of yer child? Not that it's any o'my business, I just like to know what I'm workin' with before ye get up on the exam table."

    "N-No," Aurelia replied in a stutter, remembering her captor's threat as clearly as if he were still making it. He can order me not to tell who I am, she thought, but he can't tell me not to leave little clues. "I'm not pregnant, sir. I simply have a laceration on my outer right femoral area that needs medical assistance."

    She had never seen a look so baffled in her life. In an instant the friendly demeanor was gone, replaced by a sudden frustration and more nervous glances in the brute's direction. "A what in the wear? If yer here play any fuckin' games with me I swear I'll--"

    "No!" she shouted, backing up so far that she bumped into The Demon's front. "No, I just--I'm--" These are lowborn, they don't have mercy on little girls like you, especially not in the presence of one as fearsome as he. The more the poor man yelled the more she yearned to run, to try her chances alone in the forest rather than face any more conflict that could lead to bloodshed. Gruesome flashes of dead soldiers and her screaming mother bombarded the forefront of her mind and before Aurelia could think twice, she was hyperventilating and cowering in fear of an old man's questions. "A cut on my leg!" she shouted at last, "I have a cut on my leg, please, I'm sorry, it's just a cut, I didn't meant to offend you sir, please, I need stitching and I can't do it myself..." Her horror had spurred tears, and the princess would have lost her footing and fallen to rotten floors had she not clutched to her captor for help.

    "God," the man exclaimed after a silent moment, "I didn' mean to frighten ye." His anger had turned to pity, and from pity to shame. The doctor offered a gentle hand, though the trepidation remained etched in the wrinkles of his face as he continued to glance anxiously up to The Demon. "Come 'ere, lass. Come on. I'll examine ye for free, but only because ye look so scared an' I messed it all up. I've even got a dress for ye, to protect yer dignity. Can't imagine you'll want to roll those breechers up with a gash as bad as that and takin' 'em off is outta the question." He gestured to the damp spot on her thigh. "It's bleedin'."

    She could feel the pain of it, certainly, but she stepped forward all the same. The little man rushed back to what appeared to be a bedroom, returning moments later with a dress of cheap make in hues of blue and brown. "It's a bit old, but it'll suit ya. Go one. Take it. As a peace offerin'. Don' have no use for it anymore, me daughter married some farmer in Barrowton." He offered it gently to her, and there was no denying the gift despite how much she so desperately wanted to. "The toilet's 'round the corner there, you can change in there. Wash up too. You look a right mess. Afta' that we can see 'bout that leg, hmm?"

    "Thank you," was all Aurelia thought to say. She did as he asked, undeniably wanting to wash her face and remove some of the grime from her pores, and walked down the hall towards the bathroom to change.

    As the door clicked shut behind her, she turned to the faded mirror hung on off-angled cabinets. The image wasn't as bad as it could have been. The pond's reflection had done no justice; dirt caked her delicate face mixed with blood and sweat, and her eyes were slightly red and sore from tears she denied a moment's release. A right mess? she thought. I look dead. Perhaps that's what I am, now. Aurelia changed into the old man's offering and cupped fresh water in her hands, scrubbing all the little souvenirs of Mount Lyren from her face and visible skin. It wasn't enough, but it would do. The princess pinned her hair back and let tides of golden curls ripple down the length of her spine, feeling another person and no longer what her name bequeathed. It was as if the water had removed a bit of her soul and crushed it to dust in the wind. The single token of her birth was tucked away in the tunic of the dress, a sun hidden behind clouds of silk, and moments later she emerged to the doctor once again.

    "There we are!" he exclaimed. "A proper lady, if I say so myself."

    She realized a moment too late that his words had been a compliment and not a mock, and she thanked him quickly before climbing upon the table at his gesture. He examined her very briefly, much rougher than the physician in Lunaris but he appeared to be skilled at his craft, even if he lacked knowledge of the proper terms for various parts of the human anatomy. He pulled up her skirts to expose the wounded thigh, clicking his tongue and sighing in disdain. "I can already see it's infected," he informed, "but not bed enough to need drastic measures. Should be able to use a bit o'this ointment stuff I just got. Don't tell anyone, but I got it from the east." He chuckled, "bloody geniuses workin' medicine over there. I'd have a mind to go meself if it weren't so dangerous through the mountains. How old are you?" he asked at last, a look of concern plastered on his face.

    "Fifteen," Aurelia replied.

    "God. So young." The doctor frowned and reached for a small tube of a clear paste, spreading it about the wound ever so gently despite her little whimpers of pain. "Don't need stitchin' though, that's good news. Sorry. I know it hurts. It'll be over soon. Just a bit more..." When he finished, the wound was properly dressed and he tossed a spare plastic tube to the brute who stood watching in the doorway. "Put that on 'er twice a day," he instructed, "and wash yer hands before ya do it."

    "Can't I do it myself?" she asked frantically. "I don't want him--"

    "Sorry, me lady. Lots o'times, patients don't put it on right because they don' like the pain. Can't risk that with an infection like this." He frowned. "But you should be gettin' better in a week's time. At least you can walk on it. This, though..." The doctor stood and gently held Aurelia's head in place, sighing at the remnants of the gash he found there. "You feel dizzy? Headaches? Who savaged you like this?" He looked up to The Demon in fiery suspicion, and Aurelia felt the panic rise in her throat. The doctor reached for a knife and gripped the handle so tightly his knuckles paled. "She's got bruises in the shape o'hands on her thighs, kiss marks on her chest and a bloody concussion. What monster would do this to a girl so young?!"

    "It wasn't him," she blurted, "I was attacked but this man carried me to safety." It surprised her how true that was. "Please, sir, I'm alright. If he was the one who hurt me, why would he take me to a healer when I'm in no direct threat of death?"

    She could see the suspicion on the medicine man's face slowly pass in a struggle to understanding. "I see," he said, though he remained slightly unconvinced. It showed blaringly in the way he eyed The Demon. "You can't do much with the head wound, lass. No loud noises, no sudden movements. Won't get better for two weeks at least. Now take the medicine and go." The doctor gestured with his hand, "there's nothin' else I can do for ya and it's gettin' dark. Don't want those men that came after ya comin' here to find their prize, though I don't imagine any of 'em lived with a man like that protectin' you."

    "He's not protecting me." Aurelia gently climbed off the table and kept the doctor's words close in her mind. "Thank you for the dress. I'm sure my rescuer will pay you handsomely for all you've done."
     
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  18. Not A Moment's Peace, blue
    He didn't let the princess out of his sight during the doctor's examination, only when she disappeared into the washroom did he lose sight of her. There was an uneasy feeling in his gut, that she may try to escape through a window or something of the like, and he was tempted to come in after her just to prevent such a possibility. Luckily, before he could make up his mind, she returned to them, looking marginally less ragged in her 'new' gown.

    The Demon's stern expression softened somewhat upon laying eyes on her, if only briefly. He couldn't deny that she looked ravishing, even forlorn as she was. In that moment, his gaze followed her for another reason altogether. The hell am I thinking?! His internal voice scolded, The Demon looking away while the doctor took to examining her. Can't afford to be distracted. Aside from that, she's just a child.

    His thoughts were interrupted by the gnarled old healer, tossing a tube of some unfavorably smelling ointment his way. His eyes fell upon the medicine then back to the elderly healer, offering a very small nod. "Fine," he grunted, speaking for the first time since they'd entered the crumbling shack. The Demon's eyes narrowed at her protests, complaining that she didn't want his hands on her. Her words brought him firmly back to reality, where precious little princesses paled and wept at the idea of being touched by a monster like him. The reminder managed to make Darion look even more grim than he usually did, somehow.

    The examination came to a completion, and the mention of compensation had both the girl and the old man looking at him with cautious expectancy. The Demon's gaze flit between them, hand rested on his belt, dangerously close to the dagger he always kept close at hand; the same he'd used not to long ago to end the life of his accomplice. Might be a good idea to do the same to him, he debated in his thoughts, old man could run his mouth to the wrong people. That hand lingered closer to the hilt, envisioning the bloody scenario; he could slash the geezer's throat open in an instant if he so desired.

    One glance at Aurelia, he could tell she knew what he was thinking. Of course she assumed the worst of him, but in this instance, she was correct. Like she could ever make me feel shame. Still... I suppose she's seen enough bloodshed... for now. Letting out a reluctant sigh, his stance relaxed, fingers moving away from the blade, instead taking hold of a leather pouch next to it. He produced a single gold coin from within, flicking it towards the wizened healer, the money landing at his feet. The geezer was quick to scramble after it, the crown engraved currency worth more than anything he'd owned in his life.

    "Mighty generous of ye!" He chuckled, fiddling with the gold piece in his hands. "Come back anytime if ya need your wounds looked to!" Darion gave no response, already at the door, quickly ushering the princess outside.

    God, I really need a damned drink now.

    ~~~~~


    Not far did they go, slinking into the dimly lit tavern just next door. Darion grabbed the girl by the hand, leading her into the den of debauchery. The wooden floors were stained with vomit, the walls splintered, frayed, flecked with long dried blood; but none seemed to notice much with the dim lighting and the haze of inebriation. The stench of muck and mildew permeated the air, one practically able to cut through it with a knife; The Demon felt his boot splash in the dampness of a puddle, of which he could only hope was spilt water. They passed by throngs of drunkards and whores, some following Aurelia with their eyes... one could only imagine what they themselves were imagining. No doubt it was anything but wholesome.

    Finally they'd made their way to a round table at the rear, where the crowd was less concentrated. Aurelia took the chair closest to the window, while The Demon seated himself with his back to the wall. It would be some time before a server would come to take their order, this apparently being their busiest hour. Just before Darion was about to loose his patience and punch someone, their waitress came stumbling through the crowded tavern room, avoiding the hands of shameless drunken lechers.

    "My lord, my lady," she curtsied politely, referring to them as highborn though she had no clue whether they were or not; it must've been some form of courtesy they gave their customers, though with one glance around at their patrons, it was hard to find a single man or woman worthy of such titles. "What can I get for you two today?"

    "Wine," The Demon spoke, sounding as impatient as he oft did. "Two mugs." He glanced to Aurelia, quickly amending his order. "No, make that three."

    "Very good, sir. I'll return shortly." With another quick curtsy, the waitress departed, leaving the two to their own devices. Neither seemed particularly inclined towards conversation, Aurelia taking her gaze to the busy village folk in the street outside, while Darion kept his attention forward, always on the lookout for trouble. At this point, he almost wanted some.

    It wasn't long before the woman returned with their drinks, setting her tray of wooden goblets on their table and placing the drinks in front of the two. As she turned to leave, she jumped, face to face with another inebriated tavern goer. This one stood out among the others, wearing a set of darkened leather armor, his brown hair shaved close to the scalp, but most striking was the white skull tattoo on his shoulder, visible as one of his sleeves were torn off, as if he were displaying it as a badge of some sort. Darion had noticed a few in a similar uniform when they'd first come in, eyes drawn mostly to their weapons as they all had been armed in some way or another.

    The toasty warrior leaned in and whispered something in the woman's ear, smiling like a madman. Her eyes widened and she shook her head, pleading silently. "No, Rocque, please... not tonight..." the fear was evident in her voice. The mercenary merely laughed, slapping her on the behind, the waitress promptly running off.

    Both of their gazes fell on the uninvited guest as he stole an empty seat at their table, grinning from ear to ear, eyes firmly locked on the princess. Aurelia glanced nervously to Darion, but the knight merely kept on staring down the newcomer, silent.

    "Well well well, what's a pretty little thing like you doin' in a place like this? You're a breath of fresh air, love." Rocque leaned forward, sliding his hand on the table towards the princess, but the girl was more than reprehensive, rightfully so. As she pulled away, the drunkard scoffed, glancing over at Darion. "Oh, I see, you already got a man. Where'd you find this'n, eh? She any good?"

    The Demon looked to Aurelia, then back to the man, shrugging before taking a sip of his wine. "She's alright. Had better." The mercenary roared with laughter, slamming fists on the table, while the Highlier girl looked less than amused.

    "Hahaha! You just gotta break 'em in is all, mate. Give her some time, she'll be doin' whatever you want right quick. Ain't that right, girlie? You wanna please your man good, don't you?" He'd already scooted his chair uncomfortably close to her, the stench of ale hanging heavily in his breath. Much to her horror, he'd set his hand on her leg, rubbing her thigh while unknowingly triggering pain from her wound. Not that he'd of cared either way. "I could have this one on her knees in a matter of- ACK!"

    The sudden yelp of pain silenced the room, drawing everyone's attention. The Demon had caught the molester by the wrist, squeezing his hand with an iron grip. With a sickening crunch, he'd twisted the bastard's hand sideways, an unsettling grin breaking across Darion's face at the agony he was causing the man."Touch her again, I'll shove that hand down your throat." Without another word, he released him. Rocque fell out of his chair, clutching his arm in agony.

    "Wh-Who... who the hell do you think you're messing with?!" The man on the ground gasped through howls of pain. "G-Get him boys!" As if on cue, several of the injured man's similarly dressed associates stood from their tables, brandishing their weapons. The drawing of steel sent the other patrons into a panic, bystanders fleeing so as not to become part collateral damage in the ensuing melee.

    Darion stood as well, unsheathing the longsword at his hip. Oh, this is what I've been WAITING for. Downing the last of his drink as one of the fools dared to charge, he sent the empty goblet sailing right for the man's face, knocking him flat. Another two came forward with their weapons at the ready; he parried the swing from the first, shoving the smaller man into his associate while spinning to block the axe of a third attacker. He grabbed the attacker's wrist as he'd done with Rocque, eliciting a cry of pain from the man's lips before a swift pommel to the forehead silenced it. The Demon took the weapon from his fingers, turning himself back around to face the others.

    The attacker who received a cup to his face had regained his footing, clutching his noise in anger as he came barreling at the Demon in a fervor. Darion decided it was time to bury the hatchet: literally. Just as the thug closed the gap, the stolen axe came down on him, lodging thoroughly into his skull. His corpse was kicked mercilessly to the ground, the fallen knight moving quickly to engage the two he'd knocked over previously.

    All the while, Rocque had crawled his way over towards Aurelia, grabbing at her ankles with his one good hand. "Little bitch... wh-when my boys are done with him, we're... we're gonna have fun with you..!"
     
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  19. Sudden Protector, #CC99FF The body of the first man to fall slammed against the wooden table and collapsed to rotting floors, and Aurelia screamed despite her will to remain silent. Clashes of steel on steel and clangs of battle ripped through the once obscene profanity and boisterous nature of the tavern. The fiddle players and drummers had scattered, barmaids and wenches fleed from the laps of those they had previous entertained. Everywhere, there was chaos. The princess stood helplessly as The Demon used his massive fists to kill and his rage to fuel the flames of mayhem. A touch from a stranger had been all it took to send her into a panic, yet the man who held her prisoner rose to her defense like a pirate protecting his most prized treasure from the hands of those greedier than he. "Stop!" she attempted to cry over the roars and shouts of the fight, but there was none that would hear her over the havoc the inn had transformed into.

    None but Rocque.

    "Callin' out to that monster, ay?!" came his teases, gripping her ankles if only to feel her skin and claim a piece of her for his own. "The things he's done to ya ain't nothin' compared to what we'll do. Precious little cunt like yours is just perfect for the takin', for the lickin', for the touchin'--"

    "Not by you." Aurelia gripped the goblet of wine resting undisturbed atop the table and slammed it with all her strength against the thug's skull, and while it was only enough to disorient him a moment she was able to free her ankles and stomp harshly on his groping hands. Is that all I am to these Western men, an animal, a pet for taming? But there was no time to ponder the thought. Her assailant temporarily distracted, the princess lifted her skirts and rushed from behind the chairs and table in a rare streak of bravery that would potentially cost her the life she held dear. Aurelia was a strong girl who cowered in the face of real battle, never training in proper prepatations and growing up from childhood never dreaming of facing such things in real time. But here they are, she thought, and like the stories of great warriors and heroes I, too, must be brave. Brave like my father. Brave like Roylan, Killian and Tallard. Brave like my mother.

    In a foolish rush of courage, Aurelia dove forward and clutched onto The Demon's arm, moving between him and his intended victim. She clutched onto the sleeve of his tunic and tugged, though the heat of his skin was easily felt through the fabric and the glare of sheer murderous intent prevailed his harsh features. Aurelia stood her ground and kept what little part she could control under her hold, even then unsure as to the outcome of her idiotic bravery. He could kill me for this, strike me where I stand and continue on his rampage. But he had taken her to a healer, had carried her away from men who meant to harm and slaughter her on Mount Lyren, and while she had no inclination as to what his orders might be and who had given them, Aurelia's resolve would remain strong. She held his gaze with an innocence reflected in her very soul. Behind the pair, she heard the remaining members of the wounded gang shuffling to their feet to scramble from the tavern without a second glance back to the fearsome monster, but her focus was not on them or their presumptions.

    "Enough," she told him in a quiet voice, as kind as it was undemanding. "Please."
     
    #19 Sansa Stark, Nov 22, 2014
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2014
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  20. The Power of Innocence, blue
    The brutal melee came to a sudden halt, the lone pair standing amidst the debris of broken furniture and bloodied bodies. Darion's hateful gaze followed the attackers even as they fled, the killer instinct that flipped on his mind having yet to turn off. So badly he wanted to shove the foolish girl away, finish what he'd started and watch those cretins bleed out like the others...

    ...But he did not. The look in his eyes showed surprise more than anger, though incensed as he was that she'd gotten in his way, he was more taken aback by how courageously she'd done so. He'd never met a woman that dared to defy him so directly, much less a girl... more to the point, he couldn't help but ask why she'd bother to at all. The sentimental fool. She would spare them, when they'd not do the same in her place? When they would condemn her to a fate far worse than death?

    Darion seemed to visibly deflate, though the perplexity still lingered in his expression. Slowly he lowered his raised weapon, never breaking eye contact with the princess that dared to test The Demon's wrath. With a weary sigh, he shook his head, almost ashamed that he'd let her stop him.

    He wiped the blood from his sword, replacing it in the sheath at his hip. The Demon glanced around at the mess he'd left in his wake; tables and chairs upturned, walls and floor stained with the red of both blood and wine, a couple fresh corpses littering the ground. One of the stiffs clutched a bloodied knife, the sight of it instantly reminding him of the slash he'd suffered across his shoulder, clutching the wound at the sudden sensation of pain. He hadn't even noticed until the fight was over, but the cut was deeper than he'd first guessed. Damn... I was careless.

    Wait.. was that why she held me back? Did she actually care about my well-being? The thought flashed past him, but he quickly squelched it. She would be an idiot to worry for her captor... and fair maidens care little for the lives of monsters.

    Not wanting Aurelia to see his pain, he tore away from her, finding his way over to the bar, where the tavern's proprietor was hiding underneath. After Darion simply knocked on it, the bald old gent gingerly poked his shiny head out from underneath, eyes landing on the generous amount of gold coins The Demon slid his way.

    "Need a room." He spoke casually, as if he'd not just essentially stampeded through a band of men like a raging beast. The tavernkeep blinked, looking around at the carnage with wide eyes, a bead of sweat rolling down the side of his face. Quietly he rose to his feet, grabbing one of the rusted keys off the rack and hesitantly handing it over Darion, who took it from his hands impatiently.

    "Come, girl." The Demon called out to the daughter, motioning for her to follow as he ascended the staircase to the second level. Lifting her skirt up to step through the blood and over the bodies, Aurelia offered a hasty apology to the stunned barkeeper before going after him.

    ~~~~


    "Why did you stop me?"

    He had been silent up until that point, on the trip up to their room, and some hours afterwards. The abode they'd been given was likely the most expensive room the inn had to offer, a spacious suite furnished with its own fireplace and a separate lavatory, though unfortunately it had only one bed, large as it was. At least there was a nice view from the window, being on the highest floor... but Darion had paid little heed these amenities, more focused the question he'd just now posed.

    Was she misguided enough to care for their attackers, or he himself? Was she just afraid of violence, the sight of blood? In silence he'd pondered the answer, sitting in front of the blazing firepit, occasionally grasping at the gash on his shoulder he'd had yet to attend to. It bothered him, that this bothered him so much. Perhaps the answer wasn't important, perhaps it was something else... that feeling he felt, when she stared so innocently into his eyes, was it... guilt? Was that even possible?

    Darion craned his head to the side just slightly, casting a sidelong glance at the princess. He wasn't sure if her answer would alleviate or worsen his tensions, but he awaited it all the same.

     
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