What We Are || Sansa Stark & Lillian Gray

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    all is chaos. Separated into six strict castes, all who walk the country are held to an impenetrable
    law that grips society in a dysfunctional way of life. Slaves, peasants, commoners, merchants, nobles
    and royalty are the only colors smothering the canvas of the world with a painful lack of diversity. Five
    of those groups may roam the world as they please. But the slaves? No, the slaves of Farlienne are the
    brunt of an eternal joke, living in squalor and carnage, plunged into the labors that no other caste will
    do. Miners, farmers, pleasurers, builders, lumberers--the grim list goes on, and Jocelyn is caught in it.

    But she is not alone. A lonely prince sits in the Tower of Archaedon, aside his cruel king brother who
    would seek to bring more chaos upon the world. Alexander and Jocelyn are separated by birth and
    title and occupation, never to meet should the ways of the law prevail over fate.

    Our story begins on the brink of another, the tides of change flushing our slave and prince toward
    a meeting that would alter the course of the future.





    AGE: Sixteen

    CASTE LEVEL: Slave, mining district

    HEIGHT: 5'1''

    WEIGHT: 110lbs

    PERSONALITY: Soft-spoken and gentle, Jocelyn is a sweet girl that is loved by many. She has a naturally nurturing demeanor but is very poor at self-defense, always trying to please those she is around. She is loving and caring to a fault, but is not afraid to speak her mind when the occasion calls for it. Jocelyn is insatiably curious and will ask ridiculous questions and pester people for the sake of knowledge. When angered she has a will of steel and a way with words. She is clever, though uneducated as her caste forbids.

    BACKSTORY: The youngest child and only daughter of Judah and Juliet McDowell, she is one of eight total children. Jocelyn was born with a severe case of asthma that limits her exercise and exposure to smokes and various particles, making her Choosing into the mining district a horrifying one. Upon her arrival in Dale after leaving her parents in Culceth, her three brothers assigned to the same district swore to protect her when they weren't being Overseen, and tell her to rest on the job to keep her lungs in order.

    FAMILY: Judah McDowell (father), Juliet McDowell (mother), Jonathan McDowell (brother), Jordan McDowell (brother), Jacob McDowell (brother), Jorge McDowell (brother), Jeremy McDowell (brother), Jack McDowell (brother), Jared McDowell (brother)



    AGE: Thirty-two

    CASTE LEVEL: Royalty

    HEIGHT: 6'0''

    WEIGHT: 210lbs

    PERSONALITY: William has been cruel and malicious for much of his life, never opening up to anyone and allowing his anger to get the better of him. He is rageful but also calm and clever when he so desires, sneaky and manipulative. He would sacrifice anything or anyone to get in his way. He is a huge supporter of separated castes and often mocks the slaves, causing nobles and merchants seeking his favor to join with him. He has an iron will and a fist to match.

    BACKSTORY: William was always known to be vicious, even in his youth. He was an only child until the age of eight when Alexander was born, and he hated him. More than once he was caught harming his baby brother and had to be pulled from causing further damage. He was trained well in literature and politics and became incredibly intelligent, perhaps too much. When his father and mother died under suspicious circumstances, he was instantly given the crown according to the law. He is seen as a dictator, either loved or hated, and a majority of his people fear him.

    FAMILY: Prince Alexander (brother), Queen Celia (wife), Princess Emilia (daughter)



    AGE: Forty-five

    CASTE LEVEL: Noble

    HEIGHT: 6'4"

    WEIGHT: 240 lbs

    PERSONALITY: Arthur is a loud man, tall and ferocious and proud of it. He uses his wit to win others over and remains confident in his ability to do so. He is the brain when his Prince forgets to use kinder words. Arthur is no stranger to sticky situations and will do anything to follow the orders given to him. His appearance can be off-putting to his boisterous nature. He has quite the taste for whiskey and tobacco.

    BACKSTORY: Arthur comes from a long line of military men. It is a great honor for the boys in his family to start their training for knighthood at a young age. Arthur was no different, and when he was eighteen he enlisted in the Farlienne military. He fought in two wars and rose to the rank of Colonel, and accepted retirement when the former king and queen knighted him. Still, he missed having a mission and later came to the royals in search of something to do. They entrusted Arthur with the life of their younger son, Alexander, and he found his place at the Prince's side.

    FAMILY: Scott Desmond (brother), Emily Johnston (sister), Esmeralda Desmond (wife)




    AGE: Twenty-four

    CASTE LEVEL: Royalty

    HEIGHT: 6'1"

    WEIGHT: 210 lbs

    PERSONALITY: Alexander is a rather opinionated man, but he keeps to himself when he knows it's best. Unfortunately, it isn't always for long, his temper wins over most of the time. While he knows that logic and reason often win him most of his fights, it doesn't always keep his head level. He's rash at times, but has a strong moral system. Overall, a rare breed of the true honorable sort.

    BACKSTORY: As a child, Alexander always knew his older brother would take the throne, but that didn't stop him from keeping up when it came to education and swordplay. Matched in all things but age, of course, Alexander was once considered a better choice for King, but before the decision could be made, his parents died in a freak accident, instantly transferring power to his older brother William. He keeps quiet about his suspicions that the deaths were no accident, and despises his older brother's policies regarding the class system.

    FAMILY: King William Blackwood (brother), Queen Celia Blackwood (sister-in-law), Princess Emilia Blackwood (niece)




    CASTE LEVEL: Commoner, non-pleasurable serving district

    HEIGHT: 5'3''

    WEIGHT: 130lbs

    PERSONALITY: Quirky, peppy and bubbly. Since she was young, Hannah was exceptionally gifted in the art of calming people and making them comfortable. All who know her are drawn to the happiness of her presence, and she is often compared to the sun. It was no surprise to any when she decided to dedicate her life to a district of servitude. She does not like politics, though Hannah is drawn to Alexander's secret visions for the future. She disdains the caste system.

    BACKSTORY: Hannah was favored by the former king and queen as her father was one of their most esteemed generals. When he died of a sudden heart attack as Hannah turned sixteen, the king promised her a job as a handmaiden should she choose the correct district. Shortly before the king and queen were killed, she was appointed to be the handmaiden to Prince Alexander's future bride, though mostly she serves the prince until that day comes. She lives in the Archaedon Tower, on the Prince's floor along with Arthur.

    FAMILY: Rachel Sweden (mother), Mary Sweden (sister), Alice Sweden (sister), Nathan Sweden (brother)



    AGE: Twenty-five

    CASTE LEVEL: Noble

    HEIGHT: 5'11''

    WEIGHT: 200lbs

    PERSONALITY: Laid back and humorous, Cameron is typically the furthest thing from a "lord" that most would expect. He is not afraid to speak his mind and enjoys making crude jokes when the timing is inappropriate, though he is extremely intelligent despite what others think. Cameron likes to cause trouble and rebel against authority in little ways. He holds no fondness for politics in the slightest. He and his wife live in Archaedon, mere minutes from the Archaedon Tower.

    BACKSTORY: Cameron's parents, both alive and well, only wanted one child despite the pressure by common intrigue to produce more. This left him spoiled rotten as a child, and only in adulthood did he find some sense of modesty. His mother and father want their son to produce heirs for the
    family line, an ancient line, but Cameron and his wife don't get along very well as the marriage was arranged and conducted on short notice. Their relationship mostly consists of insults and ignorance. Cameron, however, finds solitude in Prince Alexander, whom he has been best friends with since they were very young.

    FAMILY: Anna Freemont (wife), Nikolai Freemont (father), Hestia Freemont (mother)



    « »
    Archaedon is the capital of Farlienne, home to members of all castes, most notably the royalty. Archaedon is a bustling city with cog-like architecture and bright lights. It is often called the "Sleepless City." Royalty and very important nobility live in the Archaedon Tower, the great castle in the canter of the area that shoots up into the sky, taller than any other building in Farlienne. Archaedon is also home to the Great Chapel of Harmony, the religious center of the nation.

    Culceth is the farming district's main point of operation, home to hundreds of fields with rich soil and plenty of nobles and Overseers to go along with them. The McDowell family is from here, and Jocelyn's mother and father work the fields. Cucleth is a travel destination for many wealthy people who enjoy exquisite countrysides and landscapes.

    Dale is the head of the mining district's location. It is a suburban citytown submerged in the earth, inhabiting a massive maze of caves that have been flowing with gems and ore for over a millennium. Most houses are dug out in the abnormally large stalactites that hang from the roof of this city-sized cave, near the surface.

    Sasora is a group of little towns rather than the name of a single city, making up the majority of the south-western Farlienne desert. These places are typically free of nobles aside from those who don't fear being associated with rebels. The desert people have minds of their own and are not afraid to speak out against the caste systems, accused of disguising slaves as commoners or a higher status, a crime punishable by death. Most of Sasora is furnished by trade. Mainly merchants and high-ranking commoners live here.

    Asmoor and Azmar are twin cities, meaning "life" and "death" in one of the many ancient languages. Asmoor is a city primarily used as the largest military base to house a majority of soldiers, while Azmar is a place atop the western mountains that consists of only a prison. The symbolism of life and and death in regards to these towns is "you either obey the law and live, or die in the belly of a great steel beast," essentially. Azmar is the place where nobles joke about, and the place where misbehaving slaves and lawbreakers inhabit.


    A map of all Farlienne can be found here.


    • CASTES
      The following set of tabs is an explanation of the caste system in Farlienne. There are six castes in total.


      Each have an assigned role on society and strict rules regarding their methods of interaction.

      Royalty is the top of the caste system and holds immunity from most laws and restrictions. The caste consists of one king, one queen, princes and princesses. Royalty always resides in the capital, Archaedon. They are charged with overseeing the kingdom, passing laws and decrees, and providing heirs so that the royal line may continue. Below is the list of current royalty.

      King William Blackwood (age 32)
      Queen Celia Blackwood (age 29)
      Princess Emilia Blackwood (age 4)
      Prince Alexander Blackwood (age 24, brother to the king)

      Nobles are the second-highest caste and the most respected, aside from royalty. The roles are dukes, duchesses, lords, ladies, counts and countesses. Nobles make up a vast majority of the King's Court and are the ONLY caste allowed to provide potential spouses for royalty. Nobles may marry other nobles, or royalty only, and may reside wherever they please.

      Nobles may choose to work as Overseers (slave-controllers) whenever they wish. The job of an Overseer is to overlook working slaves and make sure they are doing their jobs and only their jobs, nothing else. Most Overseers abuse their power and engage in violating, cursing, abusing and/or overpunishing those they are in charge of. A majority of nobles spend at least one or two years doing such. Some consider it a right of passage.
      Merchants are the sole owners in control of the distribution of goods. All shops and stores throughout Farlienne are owned by merchants, meaning it is possible for them to become nobles if they acquire enough wealth. Merchant positions are executives, associates, designers, sellers, servers and the like. They have total domination over product-related services and are the main employers of commoners. They may live where they please, though by law they can only marry those of merchant or commoner caste. Merchants may also opt to work as Overseers, or as high-ranking officials in commoner districts.
      Commoners are the middle-low caste and hold the most people out of all Farlienne. This marks the beginning of "District-Enforced Labor," or DEL, which separates common work into sectors where one must dedicate their lives. The districts for commoners include banking, technological, entertainment, warfare, Overseeing, non-pleasurable serving, fashion, innovation and health. The districts are allowed to inter-marry and are not separated by location. Commoners choose at age 18 which district they will serve. Commoners can ascend through the castes only by success in their field, and it is rare. They may only marry commoners or merchants.
      Peasants are the grunts of modern society, not as poor as slaves or as well-off as commoners but they still retain their choices. Most peasants are made up of failures, drunks or fools left behind from their original castes. Their distrcits are cleaning, cooking, health, military, crafting, support, pleasure, entertainment and farming. The districts are allowed to inter-marry and are not separated by location. Persons have a choice of which district to dedicate their lives to. Peasants may become commoners by succeeding at their craft, and win new liberties.
      Slaves are at the bottom of society's chain. They are respected by no one and ordered to keep to themselves, referring to those above their caste as "Betters" as they are "Lessers." Slaves have no healthcare and no education. They are controlled by Overseers at all times when working. Typical shifts are 8-12 hours. Districts include farming, building, lumber, pleasure, military, entertainment and mining. Districts are NOT allowed to inter-marry and ARE separated by location (with the exception of pleasure and entertainment, who can be shipped anywhere). Persons of age 12 draw their fate from a hollowed-out well of tiles, a ceremony called the Choosing, and from there are sent directly to the city where their District operates.



    Religion in Farlienne is known simply as "believing in Harmony." Myths and legends all point to the origin of the world resulting from a lonely god, bored and unamused in search of something do to. He molded the earth and sculpted it, though that did not satisfy him in the slightest like he originally imagined it would. However, in the distance, a goddess saw his work of art and was moved by it. The two held hands and walked the earth of his creation, marrying under the stars and living together for centuries before creating mankind from their love. When the world become populated with their children, they reascended to the heavens to watch from above, controlling night and day and the weather and all manner of other things directly affecting human life. The two deities are known as "God" and "Goddess."

    God is prayed to in times of seeking justice, strength, good weather and tide, wealth, a healthy coming of age, safety and integrity. He is often depicted as a muscular man with long flowing hair, holding a blue candle to signify peace and tranquility.

    Goddess is prayed to in times of motherhood and childbirth, health, good harvests, honor, strength, general blessings, loyalty, predictability and safeguarding. She is depicted as a woman with long red hair, holding a scarlet candle as a symbol of the necessity of passion.

    Religious authorities are common, known as nuns and preists of Harmony, occasionally as "brothers and sisters." Anyone of commoner and above status can give their lives to the preaching of holiness should they so choose, except for royalty, who must retain their titles at all cost. Churches are elaborate, often with dome ceilings of stained glass depicting imagery from the Sacrament (the holy book of Harmony). ALL marriages, regardless of belief are held in churches. To perform a wedding outside a church is considered to be an affront to God and Goddess.

    An estimated 82% of Farlienne's citizens carry this faith.

    Father. Age 55. Farming slave in Culceth. Married to Juliet McDowell, seven sons, one daughter. Originally from the military district in Asmoor. (amber)

    Mother. Age 49. Farming slave in Culceth. Married to Judah McDowell, seven sons, one daughter. Originally from the entertainment district in Archaedon. (orange)

    Eldest brother. Age 30. Mining slave in Dale. Married to Maggie McDowell, one daughter. Originally from the farming disrict in Culceth. (burnt orange)

    Older brother. Age 28. Building district in Aria. Married to Jennilyn McDowell, no children. Originally from the farming disrict in Culceth. Autistic. (pale green)

    Older brother. Age 25. Pleasure district in Archaedon. Married to Liam Wesson, no children. Originally from the farming disrict in Culceth. (pink)

    Older brother. Age 23. Lumber district in Cael. Married to Penelope Greenwater, one son. Originally from the farming disrict in Culceth. (yellow green)

    Older brother. Age 21. Building district in Aria. No spouse or children. Originally from the farming disrict in Culceth. Mute as a result of rebelling authority (tongue removal).

    Older brother. Age 19. Mining district in Dale. No spouse or children. Originally from the farming disrict in Culceth. (purple)

    Older brother. Age 17. Mining district in Dale. No spouse or children. Originally from the farming disrict in Culceth. (aqua)

    See tab under "main characters."

    « »
    The following set of slides consists of information regarding the four main countries/realms that are allies of Prince Alexander. Their rulers are friends of his and as the story progresses, their relationship will mean the difference between life and death on many occasions.
    Nisqually is the name of a territory about a quarter of the size of Farlienne, lying on the mass of land to the east of Culceth. They are a collection of tribes living and moving in their independent ways, all with their own Shamans, similar to a Farlienne senator or a mayor. All the tribes are under the rule of the Chief and Chieftess, who settle disputes and keep tradition alive. The people are very in touch with nature and animals, and hold their arts and practices very dear. Their culture highly resembles that of American mid-western Natives.

    CURRENT CHIEF: Chief Honiahaka (indigo)
    CURRENT CHIEFTESS: Chieftess Kaniehtiio (peach)

    Palladia is a very small and fairly new country, only 147 years old. A war of this small country (about the size of real-world Maryland) separated it from it's motherland and it became it's own independent state. Life in Palladia is fairly good, with plenty of opportunities for those of the business-oriented mind, and all people share freedom. It resides to the southwest of Farlienne. The few slaves that manage to escape Farlienne usually go here.

    CURRENT PRESIDENT: James Lauridson (teal)

    Residing far to the west, ReValya is a moderately sized country that prides itself primarily on it's richly fertile soil and exquisite crops. Some of the best wine and produce comes from this place. This country has a primarily medieval style to it, mixed with the technology that allows for easier living. This country is full of light and laughter and joy, and while they are not necessarily rich they are happy the way they are. The people adore their queen. ReValya is friends with any and all.

    CURRENT QUEEN: Anastasia di ReValya (sky blue)
    QUEEN'S HUSBAND: Nicoli di'Arbolshire (gray)

    Known for lavish extravagance and no lack of riches, Iona is one of the most profitable countries in the world, about the size of real-world Australia. It resides east of Asmoor. They have many mines and purchase the rarer gems from Farlienne, adding to the expensive lifestyle that most citizens live. They have a high poverty rate and a divide between the higher and lower class, but there are no strict rules like Farlienne and the current emperor is a kind and just man, working to bridge the gap that exists.

    CURRENT EMPEROR: Aladdin Shiraaj (red violet)
    CURRENT EMPRESS: Nhadia Shiraaj (lavendar)

    • Love Love x 1
    DICEMBRE 27, YEAR 2417 CE
    Jocelyn McDowell; The Suffering SlaveBread. Work. Bread. Work. The same neverending cycle capsuled Jocelyn's way of life, the same repeated excuse for existence. She knew since her arrival that this was how things would be. A slave's life is a hard life, a life without mercy or a moment free of hardship. She spent her childhood watching her parents suffer the familiarly grueling routine, and now she pushed through a symmetrical dullness on her own. Dale was dark and humid, buried in a great husk of earth, hidden from the sun and the open air. Not like Culceth. Not like home. She remembered how it all appeared when she first arrived, a sight to see, great hollow stalactites forming houses and caves the size of mountains. A true beauty of nature, that was what she'd thought.

    Now it was torture. Now, it was nothing.

    Jocelyn stirred before the sun, swinging her legs over the edge of her creaking, painful mattress. She shuffled her chestnut curls and looked up to the cracked window, trying to catch a glimpse of the dawn through small breaks in Dale's stone and soil ceiling, but the silhouette of a man barred her vision from the city. Jonathan always woke before she did. A force of habit, Jocelyn thought.

    "Mornin'," she whispered softly from across the room, careful not to wake the rest of the family. Jocelyn rose with a blanket around her shoulders and silently crossed the distance to her eldest brother, a man of thirty years with strong arms and chiseled features. She gave him a morning hug and cast her eyes to the sleeping Dale through broken glass. "You haven't been up long, have you?"

    "Nah," came Jonathan's reply. "Just a few minutes really. Couldn't go back to sleep, as usual. I need to save up for a new bed." He gave a sullen glance back to his sleeping family, his wife and daughter, their two young brothers. Such a small house was much far too cramped to sleep five adults and a child, but they considered themselves fortunate for this much space and never spoke a word of complaint. "I just been thinkin', s'all."

    "About what?"

    "The king an' queen dyin'. Peace Week. Just a few more days an' we get to go to the capital and see Mom an' Pops, and all the rest of our McDowell clan."

    "Yeah," Jocelyn sighed with a smile. "I'm excited. It's been too long, it's always been too long." The siblings stood in silence for many moments, thinking on their blessings and curses as they had so many mornings before. Jonathan broke the quiet minutes with a simple reminder shortly thereafter. "Come on, Josie. Let's get your treatment in before work."

    The duo prepared the relief for Jocelyn's lungs while ensuring they did not wake those who slept. She sat on the floor and crossed her legs while watching Jonathon light a match and offer gentle fire to a patch of ephedra. He placed the bits of plant on a cement brick used to keep the small embers hot and burning, crossing the room to set it down before her. Jonathan sat opposite Jocelyn and smiled, the two forming a connection of assurance that they had practiced in the four short years of intimacy they had. Smoke rose from the lightly burning greens and Jocelyn breathed in through her nose, exhaling through her lips, and opened her eyes again to see her eldest brother.

    "Do you know who is Overseeing today?"

    "Kirkwall and Johnston," came his reply. "And Huckabee, too."

    "Noooo. I hate that guy." Jocelyn chuckled and continued to breathe in the smokey medicine, stopping on occasion to chat. "But it's alright. We'll make it through today like we always have, and we'll push on. It's habit, now."

    "Habit," Jonathan repeated. "I still don' know how they haven't figured out how sneaky we are, we've been giving you ore to cover up for lettin' you rest when none a'the Overseers are tramplin' by since ya got here. It's a damn miracle we haven't got caught."

    "You'd think they'd be smarter," she agreed. "I'm glad they haven't found out. God's got a hand in that, I'll bet. You all put yourselves on the line for me every day though, and I'm still too weak to thank you proper..."

    "Not this again." Jonathan reached out and took his little sister's cold hands in his, squeezing them tightly. "I know you an' I never grew up together, I had my Choosin' before you were even a thought. But you're here with us now, and I swore Mama that I'd take care a'you, of any of us that got put here. An' I'm gonna do just that. Forever." He brushed her hair from her face and leaned in to press a kiss to her forehead. "You're gonna be okay, Josie."

    "So are you." She took his hands and smiled grimly. "Five more days, Jonathan."

    "Five days," he agreed.

    We can make it after all.

    Ser Arthur Desmond; The Formal FriendThe gentle, despairing clang of the Great Chapel's brass bells filled the mourning city of Archaedon with a gloomy, repetitive tone. Grey clouds smothered a sunny sky and covered the city in hueless shades, reminiscent of the royal fatality. Ser Arthur Desmond saw none of it. He remained within the Chapel's elaborately painted walls, dressed in black from head to toe, hands folded respectfully behind his back and awaiting further order. No one besides himself and the prince remained after the ceremony had ended, though Arthur had no intention of leaving the Chapel's halls without Alexander.

    The prince stood at the altar, silent, eyes downcast. The coffins of his mother and father rested on golden pedestals before him, caskets closed, the sigils of Farlienne etched in glittering marble.

    The funeral was as sudden as it was a saddening occasion, nobles from all over Farlienne having so little time to prepare for arrival on short notice. King Frederick and Queen Esmeralda had died miserable deaths in a tragically unexpected airship accident that left the nation stunned, heartbroken and terrified. King Frederick was a stern but just ruler, and Queen Esmeralda was a vision of light. Arthur's dear friends. The parents of his charge.

    And yet, it all reeked of foul play.

    Arthur was never the type of person to be suspicious, but when a much loved and hated monarch mysteriously perishes in an accident that should never have happened, things changed. Circumstances brought new possibilities to the forefront. Since news of the royal deaths emerged after the crash, Arthur had been watching Prince Alexander like a hawk and ensured nothing he did went unsupervised, in case there was a threat against his life as well.

    Archaedon was an abyss. He had no desire to let the prince become swallowed by it, too.

    "...oh, poor mother and father," came gentle coos from behind. Arthur did not need to turn to see who it was. The hair on his neck stood straight. "This is such a disheartening loss. I only wish I could have had more time with them, for little Emilia to have grandparents."

    "She has your wife's parents, my prince," Arthur replied curtly. "But yes, we all mourn today. King Frederick and Queen Esmeralda were good people. They will be missed."

    "Hm. Pray tell, Ser Arthur, why are you still here?"

    "To guard Prince Alexander, your highness." He turned to meet William directly in the eyes. "That is my duty."

    "My mother and father gave you that duty. You are relieved of it, in light of their demise."

    "I am not relieved of it until death," the knight corrected, "or until Prince Alexander releases me. That is final. I have--"

    "Yes, yes. Knights and their bloody honor, of course." The eldest prince waved a dismissive hand. "Leave us. I wish to speak with my brother in privacy."

    "Only Prince Alexander commands me." Arthur straightened his back.

    "I am your king, Ser."

    "No," the knight replied. "Not yet."

    William was silent for a great many moments, drawing in a quick breath, eyes alight with the flare of anger. He did not like being told no, and there was such little love between the two men that the tension was nearly visible in the air. After pushing out a frustrated grunt, William bore his eyes into Arthur at an attempt to intimidate. "Not yet, Ser Arthur, but soon. It is out of respect for my mother and father that I will not punish you here. When my brother returns to the Tower, tell him I would speak with him. Immediately."

    "If my prince commands." Arthur turned his attention toward the silent Alexander once more, ignoring the thundering footsteps as Prince William stormed from the Chapel in a fit of rage.

    I do not want that man as my king. the knight thought, looking up to Prince Alexander's back. He will ruin this country.
    • Love Love x 2
  3. Alexander Blackwood; The Last Good ManWhen he'd heard of the news, he didn't think it was real. There was a protocol for the very reason of failure, more so with the two most well known royals in the entirety of Farlienne. The King and Queen themselves. There was an order, a damned checklist which every Captain knew better than the color of his eyes. Yet, despite all the safeties in place, something had gone awry. The airship had turned to dust in a matter of minutes after taking off. Radio contact was a bust. There was complete silence and awe as the citizens of Archaedon watched the fiery remains of the airship crash back down onto the ground. Just like that, so many lives affected, so many lost.

    Alexander was still in shock from the whole ordeal, but he wasn't so blind as to miss the tell tale signs of sabotage. He kept that small bit of knowledge to himself in the hopes the funeral wouldn't be interrupted with any more horrid news. A part of him didn't want to know the truth of what had happened. It was easier to stay shell shocked, in the numbness which consumed his body day and night. The nauseating feeling of fresh mourning remained on his mind, even as he lay in his bed at night, before the black of sleep could take him into nightmare, only to wake and begin the day anew. He was running on fumes just days after, and incredibly grateful to Arthur for speaking up at William's commentary.

    We are in a holy place, for him to say anything other than prayer in the face of death is disgusting.

    The young Prince was dressed entirely in black to mark the occasion, as he had been since the tragedy occurred. From the coat on his back all the way down to the laces on his shoes, everything was a blank canvas to mourn the loss of his beloved mother and father. They'd gone too soon from the world, they'd not yet given all they had to offer. There was still so much left to say, but there would be nothing left save their graves and a bit of ash.

    Not even a full body to bury between the two of them.

    The sound of William's footsteps sounded far from the inner Chapel, turning from thunderous stomps to only the echo of a past rain. The storm was never really gone with him. As they dimmed out of earshot, the Prince finally found a reason to speak. "Thank you, Arthur." Alexander spoke for the first time in hours, and his voice was ragged and tired sounding having gone unused. "I'd rather not shed blood in the Chapel. Not today. William...he really knows how to-"

    "You don't need to say it, Alexander." Came the humble reply from the Prince's ever faithful guard, Ser Arthur. "Would you like to stay a while?"

    "Yes." Came Alexander's forlorn reply. He closed his eyes and let out a sigh. Alexander lowered himself to his knees, he felt he could finally allow himself to grieve without the watchful eye of the public, more notably his brother, without having to keep face of the kind royal son he was. His head was close enough to the first casket so that when he leaned forward, the edge of his brow rested on the cool white marble where his father would find his last resting place.

    Fire had ravaged the crash site, and as it should've, the flames took hours to die away and when they finally did the true horror was revealed in the image of black and bone. The final identifying factor which proved the identities of the masses entombed in marble were the rings they bore from their sacred union. It pained him greatly to know that what laid inside were the only remnants they could find of King Frederick's body. Charred pieces which bore his noble emblem, holding tightly his wife's hand. Even in death they would not part.

    Alexander's shoulders began to shake. He had forced himself to remain steadfast, to please the masses who themselves had their chances to let their anguish show. Yet, Alexander hadn't shed a tear until his head contacted the casket. The grim reality was staring him in the face, and there'd be no denying the utter despair in his veins. He covered his face with a hand and let one remain on the smooth surface of the marble.

    Arthur approached the Prince and clapped his hand tightly on his shoulder. "I'm right here, Alex." Arthur murmured. "I'm not going anywhere, not for a while."

    In the serene quiet of the Chapel, the Prince wept.
    #3 Lillian Gray, Mar 4, 2015
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2015
    • Love Love x 2
    JANUS 1, YEAR 2418 CE
    Jocelyn McDowell; The Suffering SlaveThe thundering thrum of the airship's great propeller almost drowned out the joyful cries of Juliet McDowell. Almost. The lonely mother, upon seeing her four missing children descend from the slaveship's great unloading dock, gave an uncontrollable wail and dashed forward to the open arms of her sons and daughter.

    "Oh, Josie--Jon, Jack, Jared, oh!" She wept in the arms of her eldest, though didn't remain there long as there was so much love to give and so little time, and smothered the four of them in enough hugs and kisses to last them a lifetime. "Look at you all, so strong and healthy...oh goodness, I love you, I love you all so much. God bless us, Peace Week is what I live for, to see all of my children together..."

    "We're here, mama," said Jack with a great goofy grin. "We're here for a whole week, and we ain't never gonna be apart the whole time."

    "Not once." She squeezed his hand and gave a bittersweet sigh.

    Peace Week was the only time of year they could see each other, after all.

    "Daddy!" Jocelyn exclaimed after greeting her mother, finally noticing the strong and sturdy Judah McDowell watching tearfully from afar. The teen rushed to her loving father and leapt into his great tanned arms, warm and rough and comforting as they had always been, and she knew she could feel truly safe for once in a long, terrible time. Her father was the most precious person in the world to her, and would remain so until the end.

    "Look at you!" he exclaimed in that thick, slow accent of his, laughing all the while. "So beautiful my daughter is, so sweet. You've grown so much in a year. You're a right lady now, ain't ya?"

    "All I need is a silk dress and a bunch of wealthy suitors, and then I'll be the most popular slave girl in history." Jocelyn kissed her father on the cheek. "I missed you."

    "I missed you too, Josie. I really did."

    The tearful reunion continued on. Despite being ordered to walk off the tarmac and form an orderly line on the outskirts of the airport, the McDowells, all ten of them, embraced and exchanged words of love and joy over the pulse of the airship's revving engine. The family wept together, laughed together and talked together under the sight of no one that mattered. Wrapped in the arms of togetherness, the slave family entered the sleepless city of Archaedon as one.

    Jocelyn had seven older brothers; Jonathan, Jordan, Jacob, Jorge, Jeremy, Jack and Jared. She was fortunate enough to live with three of them in Dale's mining district after her Choosing, but the rest of the family remained separated from each other for 358 days of the year, which made Peace Week all the more important. Family meant everything to the McDowells. They would, and have, sacrifice everything for one another's sake even if it meant their seemingly valueless lives. Nothing made Jocelyn more gleeful than seeing her family united.

    Dale was where she was forced to live, but Peace Week truly took her home.

    Archaedon was nothing special when one was poor and rested at the bottom of society's iron chain. The buildings were intricate and immaculately designed, cogs turning for the mechanisms within, circular shapes all fashioned from the most elaborate metals Jocelyn had seen, but slaves were not allowed to lay eyes on them for too long. The city itself was separated into six levels to represent the castes, and most of the slaves lived and bustled on the lower areas or the outskirts of the city walls. She never liked how the city was made with metal she mined and slaved over that created architecture she could never see, but Jocelyn was in a thankful and whisked away any bitter feeling. The sun, she thought joyfully, I can feel the sun on my skin. God, why was I sent to a place hidden from the sky? Upon arrival to where her family would reside for the seven days, a small inn just outside the great stone walls of Archaedon's main hub, she twirled in the sun's light and giggled like a fool despite the cracks on her hands and feet, despite the bruises on her body. The fresh air soothed her conscience and for a moment, just a moment, she truly believed all could be well.

    William Blackwood; The Cruel KingThe temper flared in his chest like a black hole preparing to burst and swallow the world, breaking it down inch by damnable inch. A hurricane raged in his veins, yet like the calm and collected villain he pretended to be the freshly crowned king folded his arms across his chest and did nothing. No physical move marked his anger. The crown wasn't as heavy as he originally anticipated and the cloak fit him well, but those were materialistic things and he had no interest in personal appearance compared to what else being Farlienne's monarch offered.

    It was the power that made him drunk, made him complete. And it was power that drove him mad.

    "Where is that little bastard, anyhow?" William stood by one of the great windows of his personal quarters, scoffing at the thought of his idiotic little brother and his foolish facial expressions during his coronation. "I summoned him here thirty minutes ago. He couldn't be that far away."

    "Your Majesty, he was...reluctant, to answer your summons," replied the other figure in the room, one of the Blackwood house guards. "Prince Alexander was rather wordy with me when I asked him to come at your call."

    "He dare not resist me now. It'll earn him nothing but a black eye." William pushed out an irritated sigh and turned to face the servant, frowning in mock disappointment. "Fetch him for me, or tell him I'll go in there and snatch him up myself."

    "Yes, Your Grace. At once." The man left quickly, leaving the king in silence yet again.

    Your Grace..ah, yes. The ultimate power. He could feel it boiling in his hands and heart, in every fiber and atom of his royally cruel being. There was much that would change. The caste system needed a more sturdy grip, the slaves needed fewer liberties to pay for the commoner growth, the nobles needed slightly higher taxes, Emilia would need a betrothed...

    But not before Alexander, of course. As if on cue, the frustrated prince entered the King's regal chambers, and any hint of anger was washed from William's face in well-practiced manipulation.

    "Ah, so he arrives," taunted the elder brother. "You've decided to grace me with your presence after all, dear brother. Come. Sit. We have something important to discuss, and though I'm sure you won't like it you must face the challenge like a man. Do your duty to the realm. Now is not the time to be a foolish child." William unfolded his arms and picked up a cigar from his desk, lighting it with a silver lighter which he tossed back in a random drawer.

    "Do you know of what I speak, Alexander? I've set up a fine match for you."
    • Love Love x 2
  5. Alexander Blackwood; The Last Good ManA summons was hardly any reason for Alexander to feel pressured to visit his brother on any normal day, however since his coronation there was little Alexander could do but delay the inevitable bickering that might take place once the two brothers were in the same room. He spent a painstakingly extended amount of time choosing what color tie he wanted to wear. In one hand, he held a glossy black length of silk with a darker stitch woven in diagonal stripes down the length of the tie. In the other hand, a similar black tie with a similar black stitch, only, Alexander's full initials were woven into the center of the piece so that when angled correctly, the light brought out the subtle differences in the black hue.

    "Tell me, which do you think looks better?" Alexander mused in front of a silver edged mirror. "The black tie? Or the black tie?"

    "Lord Blackwood...your brother has insisted you are to meet with him immediately..." A humble servant shuffled awkwardly behind the Prince. He hated to keep the newly appointed King waiting. Now that he had assumed more power, his temper held more of an edge to it, and a host of punishments for anything deemed worthy of being called a crime. In this instance he was only the messenger, but King William hardly cared what the servant was. He could still bring news of disappointment.

    "I simply cannot decide." Alexander hummed with an absurdly heavy amount of indecision. "Arthur, do you think you could help me?"

    "I apologize, Prince Alexander, but this matter is beyond my control. I'm afraid I'm not one for royal fashion, even after all these years." Arthur played the part of an indecisive bystander, but the subtle twitch at the corner of his lips begged to differ. The Prince and his guard were having a royal time in seeing how long they could make William wait. Even the five minutes it had taken Alexander to truly prepare himself for a visit with his brother was enough to anger William, that much was a given, so the added half an hour he'd taken to sift through his fine clothes would only rile him up more. "If I recall, there was another tie..."

    It was just a matter of seeing how far the Prince could go before William snapped. As the newly appointed King, a flash of anger wouldn't help his reign.

    "This is unacceptable." Alexander sighed, throwing both of the selections onto the small ottoman behind him. "Tell William-"

    "Please, my Lord." The servant begged Alexander to listen, causing the Lord to drop his playful demeanor entirely. "The longer we wait, the more irritable the King will become."

    Alexander frowned. It wasn't his direct intention to put the servant in an undesirable position. Knowing William, he'd punish both himself and the servant for his tardiness. He picked up a tie at random and quickly set it around his throat, nimbly weaving the silk into a proper tie. "My apologies, truly, I've dragged you into a siblings quarrel. If William threatens to harm you for my own lateness, I'll see to it you are pardoned." His tone turned cool, his eyes dead set on the mirror before him.

    The Prince was dressed in all black. Even on the day of his brother's coronation, he couldn't bring himself to wear anything but the deep tone. Celebrating the ascension of power so near to the death of his parents felt wrong. When he should have worn the proper royal colors, black, gold, and violet, he'd instead garbed himself in mourning attire. Through the entire service, Alexander couldn't bring himself to look to his brother, fiddling with a pair of rings in his pocket. One belonged to his father, the other, his mother. It was only right he have some small token of their memory.

    William was not at all happy when Alexander arrived, despite the blase expression on his face. He'd seen it one too many times to be fooled by the anger boiling in his body. Before the older sibling could say a word, Alexander waved away his company. Arthur exited with the servant fast in tow. Neither wanted to be anywhere near the pair when they exploded into their familiar fits of rage.

    Alexander assumed his seat and leaned far enough back so the smog from William's cigar was out of airways. He waved his hand slightly when the smoke came too close, cigars had never treated the Prince well. They only tasted best after a strong drink, and they smelled even worse. At least the chair was as comfortable as he remembered, he thought joylessly.

    "Speaking of matches." He coughed once before pulling at the tie around his neck. "Does this go with my shirt? I simply couldn't decide."

    Let the games begin.
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  6. William Blackwood; The Cruel KingWilliam's lip gave a dangerous twitch at the words the prince had spoken, a physical clue to the tempest that swirled within. A tie? The bastard kept me waiting for a fucking tie? He hated the man that sat so pompously before him, his flesh and blood, his ever-favored baby brother. Looking at him was enough to make William enraged and irritated with all of the prince's shortcomings, but he'd spent all of Alexander's life learning to turn such disdain into a key of manipulation. It was the only way to slake his desire for justice against him.

    As always, I must be the one to teach him a lesson.

    "Your shirt looks ridiculously mediocre, Alex. Did Arthur dress you? Shame. Let me make a little suggestion." He pensively tapped his finger along the side of his cigar before striding across the room, an icon of bitter self-control, and in a tantalizingly slow movement he tilted the liquor glass. Strong amber whiskey spilled all over Alexander's precious shirt and tie, in the chocolate color of his curls. The king chuckled.

    "Much better."

    The voice he spoke with attracted the ferocity of a growl, staring down at his brat of a brother with a threatening gaze. William threw the glass across the room with great force, reveling in the shrieks of the shatter, and crouched to Alexander's lower level. He snatched the tie in his grip and angrily pulled the prince closer. I hope the fabric digs into your skin.

    "I will not sit here and suffer you misbehaving like this, little brother. You will marry Giselle Beaulieu in a fortnight as I've arranged or suffer the consequences. The marriage brings wealth to the crown and a pretty sight for the press, but more importantly, you'll be doing as our blessed late father wanted you to do. Isn't that nice, there? How I'm already carrying on his most auspicious legacy? You should be thanking me. Giselle deserves better than you."

    William released the tie and pushed Alexander back against the couch, rising to his feet and drawing in deep from his cigar. The smoke he blew out from curled lips was directed in the prince's face.

    "You're a stain, Alexander. Never forget that. For the love of God and Goddess combined, do yourself one of many favors and obey when a king commands."
    • Love Love x 2
  7. Alexander Blackwood; The Last Good Man"Thank you, I was thirsty."

    Whisky dripped down from the curled ends of his hairs, and onto his face. The amber liquid stained even the darkest of his garments with an ugly and scented stain. The Prince frowned. He had been expecting worse, perhaps a burn from his cigar or a shard of glass in his arm. The act was surprisingly tepid for William, who was prone to fits of rage. Even so, he still hadn't wanted his brother to pour anything on him at all.

    "Don't I get a say in the matter?" Alexander asked calmly as he rung his hand through his damp hair. "After all, now that you're King, the only line of succession you need to worry about is your own. Last I recalled, your wife is still able to bear children, and you have a daughter. Who's to say you couldn't have a son? Or three?"

    Alexander began to pull the silk around his neck, loosening the tie he'd put it in. Now that he was stained with whisky, there was no point in bothering to keep the wet article on. He took the time to slowly pull it from his neck and wring out some of the alcohol. It dripped to the floor, only relinquishing a small amount. A shame. My brother does love his alcohol.

    "My point is that I feel that now you've been guaranteed your place on the throne, and here on after, I might be able to choose who I'm to spend the rest of my time in this world with." Alexander played with the tie in his hand as he spoke, hoping William would calm himself in the time the younger brother kept to himself. That usually cooled his temper if he focused on something besides picking at William's poor behavior. "Father might have agreed to such conditions, may the Gods bless his soul, had we not both been viable to take the throne. It was wise for him to spread his lineage as far as he could. However, I am your brother, not your son. I'm sure you'd rather give the crown to even your daughter than me, should that time come. So, to whichever woman I choose to marry, it should hardly matter."

    He wasn't about to let William send him off to be the dutiful husband to a Lady who, quite frankly, was rude and obnoxious. The Lady Giselle. Her ideals were closer to William's in regards to the caste system, wherein that every slave was dirt under her heel and every royal was on par with the Gods themselves. If that wasn't bad enough, her personality was on par with a poorly crafted brick wall. Rugged, blank, and with a few holes here and there where her mind hadn't quite been able to patch itself back up after one too many drinks. The last time Alexander had spoken with her was at a gala some months prior, and he recalled the nasal way her voice sounded when she'd had too much to drink. The young Prince would have felt more comfortable marrying to a merchant than that particular noblewoman. At least a merchant would be able to regale him with stories of the coastal cities, and the vast lands outside the walls of Archaedon.

    "Might I ask at least that much of my flesh and blood?" Alexander smirked. "I can see I've upset you, however, and you're under no means to listen to what I ask of course..."

    He stood and paced across the room to pour himself a new glass of whisky. Alexander stopped momentarily to throw his tie over his shoulder nonchalantly, if only to get it out of his hands. He let it sit there as he poured himself a shot, throwing back his head once the liquid appeared to be at satisfactory level.

    "Think it over." Alexander said, still smirking. "Have a drink, on me."

    Alexander poured his brother a shot and left it on the table. If he had anything else he wanted to say, William would speak up, just as he always did.
    • Love Love x 2
  8. William Blackwood; The Cruel KingThe chuckle in his throat was modest at first, a signal of his well-practiced self-containment, but the more he thought about Alexander's words the more humorous the situation became. "Do you take me for an utter fool?" William held his side and laughed so hard he feared tears would stream down cheeks reddened with anger, his smile luminous and decietful all at once. When the time for his torturous joy was over, the king let his giggles die and flicked some of the ash from his cigar into a small bowl, watching the prince ever so carefully.

    He is an idiot, moreso than I feared.

    "That, dear brother, is quite the funny thought." He stared at Alexander across the room as his lips formed a great beam. "You assume by letting me think I'm getting what I want, you can find a bride yourself and be free of my control. What is it you seek? Love?" William spoke the word in a terrible mock, waving his hand to imitate what he considered to be the prince's foolishness. "There is no love in the world, not the kind you seek. Leave that to the slaves and the Lessers out in their pathetic routines, what does it matter to us? Giselle is a beautiful girl and would bear you fine children, I can assure you. She's quite the wonder in bed as well. Perhaps we could share? That blonde head of hers is quite attractive, among other things.

    "Ah, but all joking aside, getting what I want has nothing to do with caring about who you marry or your bloody line of succession." The newly crowned king straightened his back and sneered. "No, my aspirations are much purer and more entertaining than that. You will suffer with Giselle as your wife. Who wouldn't? That makes me a very happy king, and a happy king rules a happy country. Those are Father's words, dear brother. Quote me on that."

    William rose from his plush chair once more, snuffing out what remained of the cigar with the intention of smoking the rest at a later time. He walked graciously over to the front door of his secluded chambers and held it open for Alexander the Fool, gesturing with a gem-smothered hand toward the way out.

    "So you want to choose a bride then? Fine. I will allow you to. I'll throw a bunch of names in a well of tiles and you can pick one at your own little Choosing, like the bratty and stupid slave children in Aria and Cael and all those other atrocious places." William laughed at the thought. "I'll even broadcast it on the news so all may see how you were freely given the choice.

    "But you will choose soon, Alexander. Be it force or choice, it will happen. Count on that."

    JANUS 4, YEAR 2418 CE
    Jocelyn McDowell; The Suffering Slave"So there I was," Jack began, standing dramatically atop the table's long surface. He spread his hands to set the scene, crouched low and grinning from ear to ear like a madman in his prime. The McDowells always reserved a night for storytelling during Peace Week, a chance to catch up on the fun and exciting goings-on that happened in each other's different lives. It reminded Jocelyn of what was still good in a world where a sour glance could earn you a bullet to the brain.

    "Three in the mornin', right? I'm workin' the bloody damn night shift again, we all are, all four of us, and this right prick of an O'erseer comes 'round the bend."

    "God, Jack, spare our family the tales of your stupidity!" Jonathan laughed. Jack, however, continued despite the amused plea.

    "It's dark as the blackness a'night. I'm minin' like we're s'posed to, but I didn' know the guy was comin'. I was s'posed to be on watch for Josie 'cuz she's all restin' up. I screwed it right up, I did."

    "You nearly got us caught!" Jocelyn giggled in interjection. "Go on then, tell 'em all what you did!"

    "So, what I--shut it Josie, I'm tellin' the story!" He waved a hand to shush his younger sister and went on. "So then, when the O'erseer's comin' up right close to where Josie's sittin' with no pickaxe in her hand or nothin', I drop. I just drop right on the ground a'the mine and the idiot trips over me, and goes flailin' to the ground like he'd just been killed er somethin', all like this--" Jack wiggled his arms and legs in a dramatic fashion and ran up and down the creaking table, screaming his sweet head off which sent the McDowell family reeling into bursts of ridiculous laughter. Even Jeremy joined in on the fun and Jorge clapped his hands in ecstatic amusement.

    "What happened then?" called the McDowell father, smiling, one arm wrapped around his daughter.

    "Then the Overseer sputtered on about how Jack was sick with plague," chuckled the girl, "and Jack had to go in for treatment in the medical tent. He came back with all these hives 'cuz his body didn't like the shots they'd given 'im, and his face blew up like a balloon!"

    "Did not, it wasn't that bad!"

    "Was too, you rascal!" Jared chimed in. "Josie and I saw it, and Jon and Maggie too!"

    "You know better than to call a girl a liar, Jack," Judah chuckled with a great warm grin. "You best apologize to your sister now, and get off the bloody table, people eat there! Let Jacob tell the next story, he and 'is husband always act them out. I wanna see what they've put together for us this year."

    "Jacob! Jacob! Jacob! Jacob!" Four of the brothers had begun to chant the name of the third eldest, and Jack knew he was facing defeat. He hopped off the table and slumped back in his seat, patting his sibling on the shoulder in encouragement. "Go on then Jay, get up there! Show us what you and Liam--"

    The door of the pub slammed to the ground in a great raucous clatter that made everyone shoot from their seats. The fear was drastic and instant, mercilessly replacing what had once been joy. Three Blackwood guards stormed into the room alongside a stranger no one recognized. He scanned the room until his eyes found the McDowells off in the corner, and his mouth became a toothy, devious smile.

    "Her," he said, pointing straight at Jocelyn.

    All fell to chaos. Jocelyn buried into her father for protection that couldn't be found, not now, it was far too late. Two brothers barreled their fists into the guards for their sister's safekeeping, but her lungs failed her and tensed in the midst of madness, her family overcome by an onslaught she knew was unwarranted. "Stop, please!" she begged to no avail. There was no mercy in men of power, hadn't she learned that by now? Jocelyn felt the panic rip at her happy heart and bolted as her father's grip eased, fleeing, rampaging through the thick of the battle and cutting through a mass of warring bodies for freedom. Frigid air of a winter evening slapped her right in the face, but she cared not. The race for security was more important than the threat of freezing.

    It was a lost cause. Two metal pins shot from the guardsman's gun buried into the back of her shoulder. An electric surge pumped through her blood and brain and her body seized, not a single muscle under her control.

    Unconsciousness claimed her before she fell limp into the mud.
    • Love Love x 2
  9. Alexander Blackwood; The Last Good ManThe casual atmosphere had only just begun to rile up with excitement now that it was coming closer to the main event. The liquor flowed more freely, waves of laughter rolled off the tongues of those who'd had a drop too much. Somewhere in the mid level of the Archaedon tower was a long ballroom where elegant parties were held often, such as the one ordered by the King himself, be it by the the royals themselves or hosted out to various other noblemen. Dim chandeliers illuminated the elongated room, a preference held to that of Alexander Blackwood. It was all for him after all, a party to celebrate the Prince's birthday, and it was a night about his own preference and personality.

    He'd been holding a glass in his hand the entirety of the evening, but had yet to take a sip. It kept him from being badgered for another refill. Alexander couldn't let himself settle in so easily, not even on the day of his twenty fifth year of living, because the ceremony was ordered by the King himself. Now while that wasn't unusual, seeing as they were related by blood, they'd had a long cold streak the past couple days. They weren't on speaking terms, and nothing had been exchanged, not a word, since their talk of Alexander's engagement.

    "What about Lady Hoffel?" Cameron pointed towards a squat, black haired woman. "The last lovely women in all of Archaedon."

    Cameron was Alexander's right hand man in the chaos of the upper class. He was a young man with a dark mop of curls, a matching pair of dark eyes to hide the mischievous intentions brewing in his mind. A shame to all the available ladies of the realm however, he was married, unhappily to one Anna Freemont. It had been arranged early on in their teen years, but they never found the time to bond. As luck would have it, they bickered like a married couple should, and had yet to produce an heir. Both families thought the match was incredibly disappointing, but Cameron always managed to treat Anna well, and she'd forgive him. Then the cycle continued, hate, love, disappointment, and reunion. When all turned to hell, and William was done throwing his usual tantrum, it was always Cameron that Alexander turned to in the end. They'd known each other since they were children, born and raised in the tower of Archaedon, and shared many of the same opinions when it came to how a man should rule. Where Alexander was more vocal, Cameron was reserved on his public opinions. It didn't suit him to play politics. The man felt more comfortable goofing off on the outskirts of town or finding new amusing ways to bother his wife.

    With Cameron around, it was anyone's guess. Alexander liked to think he kept the man in line. Or maybe it was the other way around. Cameron certainly had a handle on the Prince, he knew which buttons pestered him more than others and which ways to calm him the fastest. They didn't bicker or fight. They simply existed side by side. Alexander, the rational of the two, and Cameron, the odd man out. They were as close as brothers should be, and their relationship felt more like the family Alexander shared currently.

    "Shut up, at least she's got half a brain to talk to." Alexander scowled. "But she's engaged."

    "Lady Uriel?" Cameron nudged his hand towards another lonely looking woman. She was at least twice Alexander's age, and had married four different men to date. One died under mysterious circumstances, the rest left before she had a chance to dig into their purses.

    "Don't you have a wife?" Alexander growled. "Or anyone else to bother? Will isn't going to let me pick a wife, there isn't a chance. Something is wrong, Cameron, I can feel it."

    "Nonsense, you need my help. He'll let you pick eventually. Besides, I'm married! That means I can help you find a bride, right?" Cameron wrapped his arm around the Prince and snickered devilishly, his handsome smile attracted the attention of a nearby group of women, who giggled when the Lord glanced their way. "Any of them would marry you in a heartbeat."

    "I don't want them. I can't have them." Alexander sighed. "Just drop it. It's my birthday, let's talk about something else. Anything else."

    "You're so boring." Cameron groaned.

    Arthur stood on silent guard that evening, parting crowds so that Alexander could move with a more efficient ease as he liked. Guests approached and expressed their congratulations, and as expected Alexander would thank them in response. Many merchants attempted to make trade deals with the Lord throughout the night, to which he encouraged them to speak to a different nobleman. He wanted to celebrate, business was best done another night. The longer he socialized the more on edge Alexander became. Everything was going well, not a bump or fiasco in sight. Call him paranoid, but Alexander was beginning to wonder what the ruse was. Something had to have been going on behind the scenes. His brother's puppets were everywhere, but their smiles and drunken attitude suggested nothing was wrong.

    Where were the strings leading to? Where was the master himself? Alexander was having a hard time understanding how his brother, the harsh tempered and hot headed King, would be so willing to throw an elaborate party for the sake of his brother's pleasure.

    "This is wrong." Alexander expressed his growing concerns to Cameron. "There's got to be something else."

    "Sorry mate, did you want scotch instead?" Cameron asked.

    "Wait...what?" Alexander did a double take. Cameron's face was bright red, and he had a new glass in his hand. He offered it towards Alexander. "You're drunk."

    "It's a party." Cameron shrugged and swallowed the drink he'd intended to give to Alexander. "Cheers, mate!"

    "My Lord Alexander?" A petite young blonde came bobbing up to Cameron and Alexander. She executed a near perfect curtsy, pulling at the hem of her baby blue skirts. "The King has requested your presence. He wants to speak to you, privately, but he wanted me to let you know you would soon be addressing the crowd so you should-"

    "Hannah, are you paraphrasing a direct line from the King?" Alexander raised his eyebrow in question at the girl. She broke out into a sheepish grin having been caught mid sentence, and Alexander mirrored her smile on his own face. "I'm assuming it was more of a threat?"

    "As usual." She replied, cheery and smiling as was typical of Hannah.

    Hannah was a special sort of girl. She was young, bright, and her company was greatly favored in comparison to the other servants Alexander dealt with on a regular basis. She never called him 'Lord' as he'd long requested, and her bubbly personality was enough to lift any sour man's day. Of all the servants he'd been assigned, Hannah was the only one who felt comfortable speaking her mind. Alexander appreciated her honesty, and a trust had been formed the moment she began working for him two years ago. It was a favor to her recently deceased father, on behalf of the, now late, King. Although, technically Hannah didn't have to come work each day for Alexander until he was married. She was meant to be a personal handmaiden to his wife, but for two steady years she'd come every day to help cook and clean.

    "I'll take that from you." She lifted the liquor from Alexander's hand and pushed him in the right direction. "He's waiting in the hall, just outside. It's quiet there, and you'll both be able to speak. Although I believe he mentioned some sort of presentation, I'd be careful if I were you."

    "I'll be with him, Hannah, please do not worry yourself." Arthur spoke up, and exchanged a nod with the girl.

    Cameron made sure to give the Lord a slap on his back before heading off to his inevitable doom. With William, nothing was a kindness, only another manipulative scheme in the making. So what was it this time, Alexander wondered. It was proper to throw a party for the King's brother, but there was something more. There was always something more! Alexander and Arthur moved silently past guests, he ignored their casual banter and slipped quietly out into the hall

    What do you have up your sleeve tonight?
    #9 Lillian Gray, Mar 6, 2015
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2015
    • Love Love x 2
  10. Jocelyn McDowell; The Suffering SlaveA rattling jolt woke her from the fragmented state of consciousness. Jocelyn let out a grumbled groan and blinked her eyes to adjust to the surrounding black, rubbing streaks of mud from her face. With a strength she slowly recovered, she sat up from the cold metal beneath her and felt it glide through the air, felt the vibration of an engine through the steel of her cage. Shivers prickled up her spine like spiders and she brought her knees to her chest, trying to stay upright through the tumultuous ride.

    In the corner of the darkness, she heard gentle whimpers and snuffed crying. Three other voices were attempting to soothe the feared ones, and the silhouettes of more huddled beings became hesitantly clear in their shared prison. Jocelyn struggled to put the strange pieces together in her mind, and though not every bit made sense there was much she knew to be true. She had been taken, and not alone, by a group of captors to some unknown and potentially dangerous destination. It was in her curious and self-protective nature to find out where.

    "...who's there?" she inquired to the gathering dark. The weeping came to a cautious halt, and for a moment no one said anything until an answer came to her call.

    "...I'm Yenna," came a little sound, likely from a child. "I'm a slave, ma'am, just a slave."

    "Me too," Jocelyn replied. "Are we all slaves here?"

    "I believe so," said another, more elderly tone. "They came for us while my granddaughter was helping me cook a nice dinner for our family..."

    "Why are they doing this? It's Peace Week."

    "I don't know. I dunno if I want to know." Jocelyn leaned her head back against the icy metal and sighed, keeping her body close for warmth and security. "How long...how long have we been traveling?"

    "About fifteen minutes. I think, wherever we're going, we're about to--"

    The cool heap of the ship made a final sudden stop, and Jocelyn fell forward from the inertia and the shock of gravity. Shouts of protest and further cries for help erupted from the cabin where she'd been stored like cargo, confusing and chaotic and terrifying, until the back door flew open and four Overseers waved flashlights in the faces of the group of women. Jocelyn raised her muddy hands to shield her eyes from the onslaught, to no avail.

    "Eh," one of the men commented. "Some good, some bad."

    "Doesn't matter. A choice has to be made, heh. Can't wait to see the look on that weak face of his, yeah?"

    "Indeed. It'll be one to remember." One by one, cruel grasps snatched at the arms and legs of the stolen slave girls. Jocelyn spoke out in her defense and tried to break free from the hands that grabbed at her porcelain skin, but defiance was rewarded with a punch in the gut and a heavy scolding laced in devilish threat. "Stop sqruiming! The king said to bring you to him alive, but that doesn't mean we couldn't spoil you first if we wanted to."

    "It's Peace Week! You can't--"

    "Shut up, dammit!" The Overseer gripped her harshly by the chin and forced her lips apart, stuffing a rag inside the whole of her mouth. Her eyes were covered by a black strip of cloth and her hands were bound in scratchy rope, and with a hard grip on her arm she was lead reluctantly toward whatever hell awaited her.

    I'm going to die, she realized with horror.

    I'm truly going to die...

    William Blackwood; The Cruel King"Ah," William chided as Alexander came into view. "There you are. Dear brother, have I offended you? So sorry. I apologize." The king's smile was unusually bright and boisterous, absent of the hatred that was so painfully obvious between the two of them. He wrapped an arm around the young prince and chuckled in delight, pointing to Arthur's intimidating frame at the end of the hall.

    "That man would die for you, do you know that?" came the puzzling inquiry. "There are many out in that ballroom who would, you know. Myself included. Yes, I know, awfully contradictory of me." He breathed in the taste of his cigar, blowing smoke from his lips directly into the face of his only brother. "Today is a day of celebration. You are twenty-five, officially completed in your brain development and ruggedly handsome to boot. It's clear we both got our looks from our dearly beloved mother. Count your blessings, Alexander, and remember those who love you."

    The king stepped away from the prince then, the rolled tobacco resting lazily between two of his fingers. It was clear that Prince Alexander was having none of the lies and bullshit William was attempting to feed him, so in tune were they to each other's aggressive emotions. It wasn't nearly as fun as he'd wished it would be, so he thought it best to drop the act and spare himself the effort. He held his arms in the air and shrugged. "Ah, well. Give me credit for trying.

    "I called you here because, in mere moments I'm going to reveal my birthday gift to you. I say this with all honesty--I sent out guards to search every inch of our lovely Archaedon to find the most beautiful, most elegant and visibly pleasurable of the trinkets I bring to you tonight. Trust me, you're going to like them. I didn't know which one you would like the most, so I brought them all here and you will pick publicly! It should all be good fun, of course. You'll get advice from your peers on which present will suit you best and we'll all be on our merry way. I've even added a little side-gift to each one. Nothing spectacular of course, but something you need nonetheless."

    The king gave no time for Alexander to react. With a devilish smile on his face, he approached the hallway door and gestured for his brother to follow.

    "Come along, Alexander. Come and see the treasures I've brought for you on this day of glorious celebration."

    Upon opening the glass door to the main ballroom yet again, the tipsy king clapped his hands loudly together to attain the attention of the gleeful partygoers. "Ladies and gentlemen!" he called over the raucous sounds of laughter, which died upon his royal command. "Ladies and gentlemen, friends and family. Before my brother gives his birthday speech, I would like to say a few words." William climbed up to the top of the golden stage, bowing as he was applauded by the audience. He drunk in the sounds of their approval and devotion, only wishing it could last longer before it fell quiet once more.

    "Thank you, thank you. As you all know, my young brother turns twenty-five today. Quite the celebration. But, of course, he is absent of one of the many keys to a happy life. No matter how much I insist, the poor man simply doesn't understand! This, my friends, is what I will give to him tonight." The smile on the king's face was so wide and joyful, it seemed as though he was trying his damndest not to outright laugh as if the event itself was a joke. "Alexander...heh...well, you all know he tends to gravitate towards trash rather than treasure. He always seems to find a trinket in the waste, a needle in a haystack, a diamond in a field of cows. So, my dear guests, I will provide him with the opportunity to grace you all with the glory of his good intentions..."

    He waved a hand, and behind him a line of slave girls was dragged mercilessly center stage. Each was blindfolded by Alexander's identical black ties, and the girl on the far right tracked mud on the polished golden floor. Laughter roared through the elaborate ballroom, so loud it nearly shook the chandelier. Above it all stood a proud king over his field of monstrosity.

    "Which tie, baby brother. The black, or the black?" His eyes glinted with indignant spite.

    "I simply...couldn't decide."
    • Love Love x 2
  11. Alexander Blackwood; The Last Good ManWhere William heard laughter, Alexander heard gasps of disapproval. Not every noble was supportive of the caste system. Many were strong advocates for equal rights, at least as a basis for equality among all living persons. The younger brother was friends with many of these nobles, and they were proud to know that a royal was behind them every step of the way.

    This was a new level of low, even for William. The man was a King and was expected to uphold a certain level of decency. The lineup of women was far from decent, it was appalling to behold a group of slave women blindfolded on a stage for the King's amusement, during Peace Week no less. It was understood that the slaves would have their day, many days, without any kind of restriction placed on where they socialized so long as it remained in the outer ring of the city.

    "You bastard." Alexander's voice was low. Then he hollered at his elder brother as his entire body quaked with an undeniable rage. "You goddamn, miserable piece of shit! It's Peace Week, what kind of disgusting game are you playing? What is this?"

    "Letting you choose, Alex, isn't that what you wanted?" The coy smirk on his brother's face intensified as Alexander's rage peaked. He was enjoying the sick game he'd begun, and the reaction he'd caused in his brother. It was what he'd been waiting for the whole damn night, Alexander finally put it together and cursed himself inwardly for being so blind. The animosity between the brothers was so thick it could be felt in the air around them, by the rows of guests invited to celebrate what should have been a night of enjoyment.

    Every woman in the line up appeared to be red in the face, at least behind the thin veil of ties. Their faces were dirty, as was the rest of them. Peace Week had only just begun, so many of them hadn't the time for a proper bathing, many of them simply didn't care. For them, the week long celebration was only worth being able to reunite with their families for every precious moment they could. The tears lined their face and outlined the underlying pink flesh. Their clothes were ragged sacks of holed cloth, stitched together to form whatever garment would cover them. One woman was lucky enough to have an entire dress made from the same patchy looking brown fabric. Only half of them wore shoes.

    This was far from what Alexander wanted. He was starting to wish he'd kept his mouth shut.

    "I've pulled as many as I could to satisfy whatever needs you find most appropriate." His brother began a sickening show of the lineup, strolling all too pompously to the first of many women. "In case you prefer an older woman. I don't see an heirs, but what does it matter, am I correct, dear brother? It's not as if you'll wear the crown." He gripped the elderly woman's shoulder and spun her towards Alexander. The latter man caught her just in time before she fell on the stage.

    "...thank ya...." She uttered faintly. Alexander nodded his head discreetly so that she might not be heard, his reaction unnoticed, but it was far from.

    "Who told you to speak?" William roared. Alexander couldn't block his brother's hand, and the crowd shouted in mixed expression as the slave woman was placed back in line, with the added addition of a red welt on her face. The event on stage was delightfully entertaining to those who had no regard for the slaves. For the rest, it was a disgusting display of power they could not tear their eyes from, lest they turn their back on the King. No one dared to leave, nor did they dare to intervene. This was the King's will.

    It was the next girl which turned Alexander's blood cold as ice. She didn't look more than a day over ten, but the odds were that she were well along in her teens, her lanky stature a result of malnutrition in even the most profitable districts. Her bones protruded at odd angles from beneath her ill fitted shirt, and when he caught a glimpse at her shockingly pale skin, it was covered in deep purple bruises. William grinned tauntingly when he approached her. He motioned Alexander forward with a wag of his finger, their faces mere inches apart before the King spoke.

    "This one?" He murmured. "Pleasure District. She turns thirteen next week, so she's not been spoiled yet."

    Alexander snapped.

    He raised his fists in an attempt to put his own mark on his brother's smug face, but Arthur stopped him. The guard tackled Alexander's back and held him in place, the entire time Alexander screamed curses at his brother. "You're a bastard! A sick bastard, to think I'd ever agree to something like this. For God's sake, it's Peace Week, they're here on neutral terms, you can't put them in a fucking lineup and ask me to pick one! I won't do it!"

    "Alex, calm down." Arthur hissed into his ear. "He's only trying to make you upset."

    "Well it's working Arthur! Look at them!" Alexander whirled out of Arthur's hold and grabbed a fistful of his shirt. "Look at them!"

    "I could just hang them by their ties if you don't pick." William held his fist near his ear and jerked his hand upward, letting his face relax for an instant before bursting into a fit of laughter. Alexander had enough of his sick games, but he'd hold true on his promise. That much he was certain. If one thing was guaranteed, the new King did not make idle threats. These women would be killed, and even if they weren't, Alexander could hardly assure any of them their safety now that William held them captive on stage.

    Alexander bit his tongue and allowed William to continue down until the last miserable slave was scrutinized and examined. The last girl was covered in mud, the only one dirty enough to warrant an actual comment on her appearance besides the color of her hair or the wrinkles in her skin. Alexander feared for her most. She was physically different, and the last in line, and she was next for an examination by his royal highness, King William Blackwood.
    • Love Love x 2
  12. Jocelyn McDowell; The Suffering SlaveWhere there was laughter, there was also copious amounts of sorrow. Public humiliation in the name of the prince's birthday was the last thing she'd expected to become of her kidnapping, but the more she pondered the thought, the more it ate away at her confidence like a starving beast. Burning questions caught fire in her mind. What sort of man was this new king, why her, why now, why ever? Jocelyn breathed as best she could with a dirty rag shoved in her mouth, the webs in her lungs constricting to the point where she felt constantly on the verge of a lethal attack. One by one, King William shamed and harmed each one of her kin in his hideous lineup, her fellow suffering slaves. Jocelyn hadn't the slightest idea where she was in the row of mockery. The world remained obstructed by the black cloth over her eyes, but as the king's voice grew closer she knew her time would soon come. Innocent Jocelyn McDowell would be the wild colored bullseye for the darts of hundreds, or so the noises proclaimed.

    And then, the prince spoke.

    "You're a bastard! A sick bastard, to think I'd ever agree to something like this. For God's sake, it's Peace Week, they're here on neutral terms, you can't put them in a fucking lineup and ask me to pick one! I won't do it!"

    Is he royalty, she thought, or a contradictory angel of mercy?

    Jocelyn couldn't think on it any longer. Her breath threatened to collapse and her chest would cave, and it wouldn't matter who he chose or didn't choose anymore. She would die for certain. She closed her eyes and breathed in calm patterns like her mother and father had taught her, thinking of ephedra and warm nights with her brothers by the fire, imagining the plant's healing vapor coming in through her nostrils and out through her mouth. She thought of her father's embrace and her mother's gentle smile.

    The joyful memories were ripped away as the rag was torn from her mouth. Jocelyn gagged and heaved, collapsing to the floor as her stomach threatened to wretch the little nutrition she'd been able to consume that day.

    "Why was this one gagged?" she heard the king ask.

    "She was gettin' real wordy with us, Your Majesty," came the Overseer's reply. "Threatened to kill us if we touched her, said she'd rip out our eyes and eat our hearts like some sort of animal."

    Shocked gasps whispered through the crowds. Do they all believe that...?

    "Hm. Pity. Let's see what she has to say about that when the poor thing catches her breath, hm?" Jocelyn heard movement and was forced on alert, but the hand that grasped her neck was strong and sudden and she was too weak to fight it. The king pulled her up by her throat and shoved her into an upright position. She knew her legs wouldn't last much longer and her shoulder throbbed from where their weapons had struck, yet her time had come and she would face it with her dying breath.

    The blackness that surrounded her turned into blinding light as the cloth was removed from her head. She slammed her eyes shut until all adjusted to the soft glow of hundreds of candles in a golden room, and everywhere she looked strange faces stared in crude greeting.

    "Pretty eyes...hm. You've tracked mud into my halls," the king said, his hand still about her neck. The grip was lessened and turned into more of a caress than a rageful hold. "Perhaps my brother should pick you for his bride, and make you clean it up."

    "I will not." The burn in Jocelyn's throat burst, an angry hateful sob escaping chapped pink lips. "Your men shot me and threw me in the mud. It's their fault I'm dirty, make them clean it."

    Silence fell. Not a breath was taken nor a word spoken for many anxious moments, gripped in anticipation of what the king would do with defiance.

    William leaned in close, his eyes boring into her like a shovel in the dirt. "...what did you say to me?"

    "Make. Them. Clean it." Tears streamed freely down her face and her voice cracked. Eyes of aquamarine burst into an angry flame. "I came here to see my family, Your Majesty. My brothers and their families, my parents. I haven't seen them in over three-hundred and fifty days. Working, day in, day out, barely any food, barely any rest--it's Peace Week, by law this is wrong! You will not take this from me, what I've worked so h-hard to accomplish! These are my rights, I'll die defendin' them!"

    "Witch!" cursed the king, his nails digging into her skin. "How dare you speak to me like that! Who do you think you are?!" His hand on her neck became two, the squeeze so tight she felt the life slipping out of her in moments.

    • Love Love x 2
  13. Alexander Blackwood; The Last Good ManAlexander was taken aback by the fiery expression in the girl's eyes, clear as crystal and an angry shade of beautiful blue. Like the ocean itself had been centralized there, every tear another drop from the storm raging on in her gaze. All of the anger and hate, the torture accumulated from years of being born a slave was directed by the hurricane of one slave's stare. She wanted to be taken seriously until her last breath. It was clear to him that by defying the King, she knew her time was at an end. William's hand was around her throat, and she was in the heart of his domain. Despite that, there was no end to the storm in sight. She still fought, still had one last breath in her lungs before the water stilled in her gorgeous eyes.

    She's not ready to part from this world. Not yet. Not like this.


    Alexander burst forth to wrench his brother's hands off of the poor girl, throwing him near to the edge of the glittering stage. The crowd gasped at the blatant act of defiance between brothers, and William's expression turned dark at being forced away from his new pet. Tensions were rising, they could feel it building up, thicker and thicker, any one spark would be all it took. Arthur stood nearby, ready to intervene when it was necessary, watching wasn't an option. It never was. William hadn't expected his brother to dare to touch him now that he had an absolute power over him.

    "That would be my fiancee." Alexander answered William's roar loudly enough so that everyone could hear. There was silence. Then repeated himself once to reaffirm his choice, their chatter and surprise clear on their decorated faces. "If I have to pick, I choose her."

    Somewhere out there, Cameron stood slack jawed and Hannah was close to tears knowing she'd delivered her Prince into the horrible situation. Anna had joined the trio and for once, Cameron wrapped his arms around his wife and she clung to him as they watched on. They were forced to bear witness as Alexander chose among the lineup, like sheep for the slaughter, the King the butcher, and the Prince had to pretend to be happy about his prize, knowing that there were still a handful of women with uncertain fates. For a royal to take a slave as a wife, it was unheard of, and to do so publicly for the sake of humiliation was abhorrently cruel on the King's part. Even so, laughter rose up again from the crowd. Hannah covered her face with her hands in shame. Cameron looked shamefully down to the floor.

    Their protests would be their silence, they would not grant the King the satisfaction of their misery.

    Alexander stood protectively before the girl with his arms spread at his sides. He wanted to turn back and reassure her, but his brother the butcher was still on guard of the flock on stage. If the Prince didn't dismiss them, the King would, straight to the slaughter without a second thought. They'd never see their families again, nor the sun on their face or the gentle kindness of another, not that they were granted many of those things in the first place.

    "Now that I've chosen, they may all return to their families, unharmed." Alexander glared hatefully to his elder brother. "It is Peace Week after all, is it not?"

    The roar in the long hall was too much to contain any longer. It had only began to dawn on some that the crown Prince had just taken a slave for his wife. Even if William wanted the sounds of their laughter to fill his ears, to please his tortured soul, there were still the disapproving tones from those Alexander regarded as his close and personal friends. Men and women from the merchant class, a handful of nobles with kind servants of their own, Cameron, Anna, Hannah, Arthur. The room was divided between brothers all because of the cruel King. He'd urged them to take their stance, and only a few sided with the last truly good man.

    It wasn't enough. It was too scandalous not to talk about.

    Finally, Alexander turned halfway to face his bride to be, his face pained and apologetic. "Are you alright?" He mouthed.
    • Love Love x 2
  14. Jocelyn McDowell; The Suffering SlaveThe overwhelming parade of shrill laughter, the mixed expressions of sorrow and worry and enjoyment, the booming shouts of the king and the endlessly bombarding sounds that signaled both surrender and war were too much for her soul to handle. White noise beat at her ear drums like barbarians and she covered her ears from the noise, chest heaving far too quickly. Her throat tightened. Is this the end? Jocelyn met the face of the prince with teary eyes and he mouthed something to her. She heard nothing and failed to register what he was trying to say.

    The oxygen was too much. Her body felt smothered in prickly needles and fuzz and her chest nearly collapsed on itself. Jocelyn's eyes rolled back into her head, blackness claiming her once more, and she fainted on a glittering golden stage caked in mud.

    "This isn't good, Your Highness. This truly isn't good." The deep voice of a stranger filled her partially responsive ears. "Physically she seems to be alright, but do you know what you've done? Court will be chaos, the press will denounce you, His Grace will try his best to get you exiled--"

    "Something good will happen," a female chimed in. "I think this, I mean...it's an awful situation, but some good can come out of this, right? Maybe everything Alex has been working so hard for can finally come true. With a slave becoming a princess, it's huge. Maybe minds can be changed about the caste system now?"

    "I hope you're right, Miss Sweden. I really do."

    Jocelyn's mind slowly slipped back into full consciousness, and blue eyes flickered open. The elegant room around her was dimly lit and pleasing to the eye. Waving candlelight greeting her blurry vision and illuminated the luxury that surrounded her. Steel columns, rich golden tapestry, great copper and brass cogs turning on the walls and the sensation of soft cotton blankets made her feel out of place and completely comforted all at once, until the figures of three Better strangers triggered an immediate and drastic reaction. Jocelyn instantly recoiled, scooting frantically backwards until her back hit the headboard of the bed, eyes wide with fear. "I did nothing wrong, I swear!"

    "Aww, it's okay," the woman soothed.

    "I--I don't know you, I don't--" Jocelyn met eyes with the prince, and immediately lowered her head. Slaves had known since birth never to look royalty in the face and he was much too close for comfort. "Y-Your Highness, Betters, I am a Lesser and whatever I have done to deserve this I'll do different, I promise--"

    "This isn't a punishment, my lady!" Hannah chuckled, lowering her head so that Jocelyn was forced to meet her eyes. For assurance, she assumed, the bubbly blonde made a silly face before relaxing her expression into a playfully angelic smile. "I mean...you didn't deserve it, the king is a big meanie. But it's all gonna be alright. We're not going to hurt you and Alex here will keep you safe."

    "I don't care about me!" Jocelyn exclaimed. "My family, where is my family? I want to see them! Those men came and took me right in the middle of our short time together, we did nothin' wrong! I need to know everyone's okay!" She couldn't stop the sob bursting from her throat, the burn overwhelming and catching fire in her lungs.

    "Shhh," came the doctor's soothing coo. "It's alright. Take slow breaths, my dear. Calm down. I'm a doctor, only here to check on your health and your breathing, which seemed to be difficult for you while you slept. Do you want me to leave?"

    A doctor...? "Ephedra," Jocelyn panted. "Ephedra..."

    "Ah, I thought so. Do you have something wrong with your lungs?"

    "There are webs in them," she stated, placing a hand on her chest in attempt to calm down. "I've had webs in them ever since I was a baby."

    "Webs? I don't think...oh. Asthma, probably. Ephedra, yes. I will get some for you and return shortly. Remember, stay calm. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth, slowly. You aren't in any danger here."

    Can I trust that? she pondered. Can I trust anything a Better has to say? Jocelyn turned to the royal at her side and accidentally looked up to his face, smothered in concern and anger and fear all at once. She quickly corrected her dire mistake and cast her eyes down to muddy knees yet again.
    • Love Love x 2
  15. Alexander Blackwood; The Last Good ManThe asthma certainly explained her exasperation during the lineup. She'd fallen to her knees, in pain most likely, Alexander thought grimly. It was all William's doing of course. He never failed to be at the heart of Alexander's suffering, and the previous celebration was no exception for him to pass on the opportunity to turn the younger brother's life into a living hell. Even if it was the day of his birth, because it was the day of his birth, a reminder of the other half of his flesh and blood, he who represented every inherently good quality William couldn't hope to posses.

    Alexander leaned forward towards the slave girl, but dared not touch her skin. She was hesitant to look him in the eyes. Slaves were taught from birth never to look a royal in the eye, and she upheld this tradition well. Even as Hannah, bright little thing she was, peeked beneath the matted hair of the slave girl, she still turned away. Eventually she'd have to bathe herself. The girl was still dusted with mud.

    "Hannah, would you tell Arthur to call for an airship?" The Prince requested.

    "Of course." Hannah beamed. She backed away from the side of the bed and bowed her head once to Alexander, and then to the girl in his bed. "Is that all? What should I tell him it's for?"

    Both the Prince and his maid were still dressed in their evening attire, only Alexander had pulled the dress coat away and was left with a muddied white collared shirt. He looked down awkwardly to the spots on the otherwise pristine fabric and attempted to inconspicuously wipe away a few specks of dirt. Before Hannah reached the door, she turned back with her mouth slightly open in preparation for a question. Their eyes met, and she looked the Prince up and down, examining the imperfect state of his clothes.

    "I'd like to find...I'd like to find this girl's family." Alexander explained. "I'll let you know if we need something else."

    "Right away." Hannah agreed. She closed the door as silently as she could, and for a few minutes, the Prince was alone with the yet to be named girl in his bed. He waited a long while before letting out a sigh. Finally, they had a second of quiet after the long night.

    "I know you've been taught not to look me in the eye, but now is not the time for that kind of nonsense." Alexander lowered his voice so that it would be soothing to her ears. He extended both of his hands, palms facing up, so they were splayed in the open air next to her body. "You need to breathe. I only want to help you."

    He took an intentional breath in and exhaled loudly, then repeated his actions, his hands still open.

    "If you would not look to me, then take my hand." Alexander continued to speak in the same soothing face as before, his eyes latched onto the image of her in his bed. She was safe there. She would always be safe there, and that was only a comfort to his own mind. "And if you would still not do that, then know, we will find your family. They will be safe. You will be safe. But for now, breathe. When you're ready, I'd like to know your name. You know mine."

    Once more, he let out an extended exhale, and waited patiently for her reply.
    • Love Love x 2
  16. Jocelyn McDowell; The Suffering SlaveJocelyn clutched her dirty knees to her chest, arms wrapped tight around slender, scarred little legs. The exchange between the blonde woman and the prince was was brief but insatiably meaningful, and Josie found her eyes widening at what this foreign royalty had said.

    My family? He wants to find them? Why? I hope he doesn't hurt them. But deep at the pit of her heart, something assured her there was nothing to fear. Jocelyn sniffled and wiped the tears from her dirty cheeks, still refusing to make eye contact with the seemingly gentle man at her side. He had not violated her, she surely would have felt that upon waking and there were no fresh bruises on her body that she could see or feel under the cloth of her simple dress. For a moment, only a moment, Jocelyn dared to think that his words were genuine and true. Perhaps he didn't mean any harm after all. But under the light of dim candles that brought the luxury to life around her, she remembered what he was.

    The prince offered his hands delicately to her, palms facing the ceiling. She couldn't help but take it as a painful reminder of the stone-cold barriers between them. His hands were soft and flawless as if they'd been chiseled from marble and molded to the utmost perfection. Jocelyn looked down to her own, smothered in callouses and mud, rough with the works of a slave's labor and white as snow from lack of the sun.

    And for some reason, he chose me over all the rest. What did I do to deserve that?

    She did not take his hands. After examining them and conducting an unnecessary compare and contrast in her already traumatized mind, Josie wrapped her arms around cracked knees once more and held them close. The prince's offer did not go unnoticed, however, and neither did the way he inhaled and exhaled. She conducted her breathing patterns to match his, glancing at his chest as it rose and fell under a mud-caked shirt. Only then did it dawn on her that he must have carried her all the way to the top of this place. She could only assume this to be the Archaedon Tower.

    His home.

    His room. Our room? I'm supposed to be his wife, right? The concept had yet to sink in.

    But he is the queen's son, she thought. Queen Esmeralda's son. He can't be that bad, I guess...

    She cleared her dry throat to speak, parched from the rag and the absence of water. "I'm Jocelyn, Your Highness," she stated at a pitch barely above a whisper. "Jocelyn McDowell. I'm, I'm a miner from Dale. I was born in Culceth though...my--" She sniffled again. "My family is stayin' in an inn on the outskirts a'the city. If you find 'em, please don't hurt them, I have a slow brother who doesn't speak very well and one that can't speak at all. They're everythin' to me." Josie picked at the hem of her dress.

    "...though, I suppose they'll be your family soon. Isn't that right? Is that our punishment...?"
    • Love Love x 2
  17. Alexander Blackwood; The Last Good ManA miner? She has asthma and they still let her work down in those mines? Alexander scowled momentarily. The whole tile process had never been efficient, or fair, to begin with, but placing a slave with a clear inability to work under the dusty conditions was outrageous. Not to mention, it would only lead to the death of an otherwise workable force. Even if Alexander hated the function of the castes, he wouldn't deny their usefulness. He couldn't. Otherwise there would be no workforce. If he had even the smallest say in changing it, he would have. That wasn't for him to decide, and he had no intention of bringing it up with his brother.

    "My Lady Jocelyn..." Alexander's brows crossed in confusion. "It was never my intention for any of this to come about, but to admit I'm not to blame would be a lie. My brother and I have dragged you into this situation, and for that you have my sincere apology. He's taken the matter of my engagement too far, I truly cannot express how sorry I am for you to have gotten involved."

    He dropped his hands into his lap and lowered his head in shame, seeing that the girl, Jocelyn, wasn't coming any closer. She retreated into herself despite Alexander's efforts to relieve her pain. He knew not how to comfort her, and it was because of her slave status which left him with an ignorance. She'd lived through many trials to which Alexander couldn't compare, her social customs were different, compared to the royal she even had a slight accent. There was little he felt he could say to make matters any better, but he'd be damned if he didn't try.

    "I hope you believe me when I say this is not a punishment, at least not aimed towards you. This was my brother's idea of a cruel joke, but rest assured, no harm will come to your family. Not so long as I can stand between them and my brother." Alexander raised his head to look at her. "To William, this is a punishment meant to shame me. Unfortunately...you were simply a means to an end. I apologize for my harshness, but it could have been anyone."

    What he saw there was the embodiment of torture. Her hands were covered in blisters from the manual labor she'd been doing since she was born. Despite the fact that many slaves were tanned and thick with scrapes from head to toe, she lacked any of the prominent features. She was pale, her skin wasn't covered in whip marks either, so she'd been obedient at the very least, or very lucky not to have irritated the wrong Overseer. Behind a mess of dark brown hair were those hurricane eyes of hers. While at the second she was terrified, Alexander wouldn't deny the fact that there was a storm brewing there that very instant. He wanted to try to reach out to her again, but he knew full well that she would deny him that touch.

    "If you'd like, I can take you to see your family again." Alexander offered. "Peace Week is almost over, but who am I to deny you the right to see your family?" He smiled, but it was pained. "Although, after that, you will have to return here."

    I dare not ask for her to forgive me. She must loathe my very existence.

    "Alex?" There was a knock at the door before Hannah popped her head inside. "Arthur needs to know where to find them. He's in the aircraft as we speak, second line."

    "Thank you." Alexander waved her away as politely as he could. He picked up a small receiver from the edge of his desk and pressed a small flashing light. Without hesitation he explained to Arthur where he might find the McDowell family. "As much as I would like to bring the Lady there, I fear for what William may believe if he hears of her leaving. Bring them here, if you can. Give them my word, no harm will come to them, and Lady Jocelyn is safe."
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  18. Jocelyn McDowell; The Suffering SlaveThis strange and beautiful prince, this odd and contradictory man who picked her in defense and offered to help her breathe was already giving Jocelyn the ultimate gift. He was bringing her family to her, though he knew not who they were or where they came from. Was he easily trusting or too quick to please? Did either pose a threat to her or her family's being? The dark side within a fragile heart, the part beaten by years and years of slavery screamed to her that this was undeniably a trap. Yet in the depths of her soul, somewhere, she felt it could potentially be genuine. Maybe the smallest bit of intention that this man had was truly brought forth for the greater good.

    It would be nice to find a last good man in the ranks, I suppose...

    At the smallest mention of her family, Jocelyn was up and active in an instant. She crawled hastily off the bed and lost any other sense of words or motion or common sense. All that mattered was ensuring her family was safe, knowing that they weren't all lying dead in a ditch for attacking Overseers or worse, shipped off on an airship to Azmar for their crimes. She flew through the corridors of the prince's elegant home, getting lost once, twice before finally locating the small airship dock on the prince's side of the Tower. The machinery came to land, not a second passing before Jocelyn leapt into the arms of her father upon his exit from the metal husk. The two collapsed to their knees and wept in each other's embrace.

    "Josie!" came the calls of her mother and brothers, all scrambling out of the ship see that their youngest was unharmed. A great fuss swelled in the middle of the dock and none of the McDowells could have cared any less, all concern and worry pouring rapidly into Jocelyn's well-being.

    "What the hell happened?!" Jonathan barked.

    "They broke one a'Jacob's ribs, but that's okay, he'll be fine--"

    "They just took you away in an airship, I don't--why did they take you here, why?"

    "Please, please!" Jocelyn called in attempt to stop the chaos. Her head was swimming and her muscles ached, though she had to reiterate what had occurred no matter how exhausted she had become. The news had to come from her. "Everyone, listen. I..."

    I don't know where to start. How do I? She burst into another quiet, uncontrollable sob and buried back in her father's chest, and the concern buzzed around her once more.

    "What the hell did you do to my sister?!" came a shout from the injured Jacob, clutching his side and jabbing a finger in the air towards the stunned prince. "I don't care who you are, I swear I'll--"

    "No, stop!" Pull yourself together, Josie! Jocelyn stood from the warmth of her father's arms as much as she yearned to stay under his protection. She cleared her throat and wiped the stains of tears from her cheeks before speaking to the huddle of McDowells. "It's not his fault, it's not! He brought you here, he...he saved me, please, it's not his doing. It was the king, he made His Highness pick me...I promise...it was all forced..."

    Forced on both of us. Jocelyn flashed a nervous glance back to her groom-to-be, dizzy with overwhelming exhaustion, her stomach falling to the floor like a rock.

    Does he have any say in this, either?
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  19. Alexander Blackwood; The Last Good Man"The King, as I'm sure you're aware, is rather...unkind, putting it lightly. Incredibly lightly." Alexander sighed. Even to suggest that he was unkind implied that there was still a bitter ounce of kindness somewhere in his bones, of that there wasn't, and never was.

    That's when he noticed for the first time that Jocelyn had looked at him. That was a positive step he wanted to think, she wasn't fearful of looking at what she'd known as a 'better'. He wanted to believe it was a small sign of trust, but he wouldn't leap to any conclusions in fear that he was wrong, only to increase the worry of the large huddle of family. Honestly, the amount of people there surprised him. He'd expected a typical household. The mother, father, and perhaps a small handful of siblings. When they'd all clustered onto the landing space, and they'd stirred somewhat, he counted ten heads including Jocelyn's. Ten! All of them held a deep concern for their daughter, their only sister.

    One royal against ten slaves, no matter if William thought them worthless, Alexander was wise enough to see that he was outnumbered. The truth was best, even if they resented him for it.

    "As I explained to Lady Jocelyn before..." Alexander stood firmly in place, speaking carefully. He dared not step forward without their approval. "My brother has made a game of my engagement. Had I not asked for a choice in the matter, none of this would have happened. However, as we are known to do, we fought about it. He decided that I would get my choice...only the options would be of the slave caste. I was not aware of his intentions until earlier this night. As far as I'm aware, William did not think I would choose. He looked to shame me."

    Jocelyn was of no consequence to William, nor were her two parents, and seven brothers. They were only pawns, not even that, in a very long game between brothers.

    "Sir, your daughter was among those in this...display of choice. None of you did anything wrong, it wasn't meant to punish you. Honestly." Alexander scowled unhappily. "However, once she was present this evening, she spoke out against my brother, and I feared for the worst. He would have killed her, and I truly acted out of my best conscious. I did not want to see her die on that stage, nor anyone there."

    Would they believe him though? Alexander couldn't say. It was well known he was an advocate for equality among even the lowest of castes, but did that news reach the darkest corners of his older brother's world? Alexander's hopeful light couldn't illuminate every niche and crack, to say that everyone knew of his goodness was impossible. Not unless he searched under every stone and made sure himself that even the slaves believed. They often did not. He was a royal, and they were the bottom of the chain. His words were honeyed, yes, sweet to hear but beyond all possible hope.

    "I do not know what else to say." Alexander admitted. "To ask for your forgiveness would be selfish. My apology would do nothing at this point. I can only give you my word that I will keep her safe, all of you safe, for as long as I can."

    The Prince lowered his head in a humble bow. There was nothing else he could say now, but take their wrath as it came.
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  20. Jocelyn McDowell; The Suffering SlaveA cruel king playing even crueler jests before the court was no surprise to Jocelyn at all given the dialogue she'd heard only hours prior, the shouting and the name-calling before the faces of Archaedon's nobility. It reminded her of the Overseers and the games they'd play on the innocent. Kings were closer to gods than men, that was what she's always been told by Betters and Overseers alike. To put a man full of hatred on such a high pedestal above the rest of the world was dangerous to the people and their country; even moreso now that a slave was to become the crowned princess of Farlienne in two week's time.

    "...that's the prince?" Jack asked, pointing to the humbly bowing man. "Is he bowin' to us?"

    "Yeah," Jorge replied. "I think he is."

    Jocelyn's heart swelled warmly at the impossible sight, of a prince bowing low before a family of slaves who could never meet his eyes. An angel of mercy. Maybe I had it right. In the smallest fracture of a moment, Jocelyn became inexplicably aware that she was no longer a prisoner being punished for some invisible crime, or an object for a king's fascination. Prince Alexander had meant every word he'd spoken. She knew it in his tone and his aura of respect for people not worth respecting, and though Jocelyn remained utterly terrified of the outcome that this illegal engagement could lead to, perhaps the results would be worth the agony put forth to reach them. Perhaps this could bring the change her people had been desperate for since the dawn of the caste era a thousand years past. What if the smallest inch of trust she felt toward the prince was some warped sense of destiny?

    Maybe Goddess is callin' me to somethin' bigger than just sittin' on a rock with a pickaxe in my hand.

    "I...I don'....I don' know, Julie, she's our baby girl..."

    "Shhh, love. Shhh." Judah McDowell was moved to tears in fear for his daughter's life, and rightfully so. His wife pulled him into a comforting hug and glanced back to the bowing prince. "He's Queen Esmeralda's son. Remember her? Josie doesn't get a choice in this but I don' think he did neither, and God and Goddess are bringin' her the protection we always prayed for. Ain't that right, my love?"

    "He'll keep his word," Jocelyn stated, her throat a raging wildfire in watching her father cry. "I'll be okay, Daddy. Mama. Somehow, some way..."

    "But that's not a guarantee." Jonathan's mouth was a tight line. "Josie, you don't know you'll be okay. What if it don't work out the way you think it could? What if somethin' bad happens?"

    "Isn't it better then working in a mine? I'm twice as likely to die there as I am here, Jonathan."

    "She's right. Josie has so many attacks in that place even I lost track," Jared added. "I'm sure it's makin' her life shorter. I mean, she's healthier here in a big fancy palace with doctors and bodyguards...and the prince is bowin' to us! He ain't even bein' watched! You see someone's true colors when they're alone, you know. That's gotta mean somethin'."

    "I think it does, too. But whatever it means, you can't stay here." Jocelyn wiped her tears and forced her heart to become a solid wall. "You're not safe. At least I have the prince's engagement t-to keep me from harm, b-but you? No. I won't r-risk it, I'd rather never see you again and know you were all a-alive than the alternative..."

    "Josie," came Jacob's soft sob, and the family came together in a bittersweet embrace that she tried so hard to capture in a memory. Jocelyn drank in the tearful departure for all it was worth, saying goodbyes to her loved ones as if they were her last. The McDowells were shooed away moments later on the airship and she waved them goodbye, arms wrapped around herself for warmth and security that may not truly exist.

    The weeping wouldn't stop. Josie trembled as the airship faded to a little dot on the evening horizon, and then nothing. Gone. Peace Week had been cut short for the slave girl with webs in her lungs.

    Jocelyn turned to face the prince after allowing herself a small minute to cry. It wouldn't be acceptable to face him as a blubbering fool, after all. His friends were all around him, the doctor with ashen skin and a sullen frown, the bubbly blonde, a couple she didn't recognize clinging to each other in fear that didn't belong to them. They weren't the faces she wanted to see. She wanted her family, her mother and father, her brothers, her niece. She wanted to go home again.

    "Lady Jocelyn," spoke the young woman through the quiet. "Uhm...I can't tell you not to worry, but you can still write to your family! I'm sure they'd love to hear from you a lot, right?"

    Jocelyn shook her head. "Slaves can't read or write, miss. I've never held a pen in my life an' I don't know one letter from the other."

    "Oh..." Silence reigned, so chokingly awkward that Jocelyn herself felt the need to break it.

    "...but I can bathe, if it please Your Highness." Aquamarine eyes gazed to the floor at Alexander's feet. "I, uhm...I don't want to track anymore mud in your halls, my lord..."
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