[P] 'cause everybody needs a friend
#1
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She wasn’t sure why she sought out the young boy with the long rivulets of dark hair. There had been something about him that had set him apart from the other members of Salsolas Kingdom – he had not looked at her as a scarred and broken thing to be collected or judged but had instead discussed aspirations; a novelty that Odalis had not been given since being rescued. It seemed a strange thing to allow an indentured servant to reflect upon, but they had acted as tiny seeds of amaranthe flowers – and now they twisted and took root deep within her heart.

Perhaps there could be a life here after all.

If not, there was always escape. Or death.

Odalis smoked as she walked, tugging at the too-long sleeves that hung around her thin wrists. Her auburn hair was curling against her nape now as it grew longer – and the blunt cut sprung around her ears and reflected gold beneath the rising sun. Smoke trailed after her as it so often did, smearing the pretty trees of green that she passed enroute to the boys home.

When she came upon it she hesitated, uncertain of what her purpose was.

There were so many eyes now; so many ears that had fancy titled that reported to an antlered crown. ”Julius?” She was one of the only wolves in Salsola that did not bother using titles. The tiny tent surprised her – leaned against what remained of a small cabin. It was obviously lived in, and the scent was familiar where the grass had been stamped down. She perched herself atop the stump of a forgotten tree and attempted to blow smoke circles on the air.







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#2
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pump your veins with gushing gold

The tiny tent was notably cramped, and the snow had taken its toll on the structure, though it was obvious the denizens had done their best to stave off the weight and cold and damp - such a temporary dwelling had been inhabited long past its usefulness, but parts of it had started to sag in low, swinging arcs. There were murmurings, low, and tense, from within the tiny hovel - two, one rougher than the other as their voices clashed, indistinct while the frustration climbed.

Not long after her voice had called, did a white mongrel practically throw himself out of the front flap of that shared home, and alarmed, he gave a start at the sight of the red-haired woman perched outside the home. Without thinking, he spoke, sharp, accusing and callous.

"What do you want--" came Avault's curt and caustic phrase, though it clipped short with the whap of folded cloth striking his shoulders his head.

"Get out, get out, get out," Julius was hissing with each strike, certainly not gentle little things, while he shooed the dog away, and like a ghost, Avault vanished away, growling, into the trees. Huffing, he smoothed the swath of fabric beneath his grasp, oceanic eyes watching him vanish away into the branches, before, with hesitance, the Valentine looked back to Odalis, eyes rimmed and pink and weary. He looked tentatively surprised by her presence - then again, he wasn't one who got much by way of company, and he cleared his throat, gathering his composure back up.

"Sorry about that, he's foolish," he excused, his voice hushed. "Please -- come in, I can put on some tea. What brings you here, Odalis?"


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#3
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The boy that emerged from the tent was not Julius. He was pale like a ghost, with eyes the color of chartreuse – and his expression was filled with a cruel caution that was biting and wary. Odalis slid from the stump sharply and was prepared to bare her teeth at him, when Julius emerged and began to hit the boy with the edges of his tent. Both squabbled with one another before Avault made off into the trees with a grimace.

”He seems nice.” Odalis dipped her head, tossing the burnt out end of her cigarette into the bushes that surrounded them, ”I can come back another time if you like.”

She allowed a smile to twitch across her scarred face, ”I didn’t bring anything.” She didn’t mention that she had nothing to bring. After waiting a moment, she passed him to duck into the small tent – and she stood for a moment stooped in its centre to inspect the area that she had been invited into. It seemed strange to think that the son of a noblewoman was sleeping in a place like this.

She hummed softly and dug her hands deep into her pockets as Julius went about making his tea.

”Have you been interrogated yet?”







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#4
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pump your veins with gushing gold

Lips curled, slow over his gums - it was partially a sneer, until it gave way into a smile at her comment as to the company he kept, admittedly feeling conflicted over it.

"Oh, he's a charmer," he dryly agreed, before simply waving off the mere mention of Odalis simply coming back later. "Don't fret. Time is a precious commodity, no sense wasting it."

At her mention of a lack of gift, he clicked his tongue as well - in truth, he had no want for anything, at least in the current, much less the space for it. He set the kettle over the fire in that open-roofed ruin, waiting on it to heat, while rubbing the narrow shape of his jaw on his fingers. His expression cooled at the following question, sobering.

"I haven't," he answered truthfully, and wondered if Odalis were granted immunity from such things, given the tight lead she were given, and the home in which she was tethered. He steeped their tea, waited on it to turn, before pouring out a duo of wooden cups, and offering one over to the red-haired woman.

"The whole thing makes me... Anxious, but I understand the necessity."


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#5
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The winds of change were coming to Salsola, and though Odalis was no expert – for the scope of her place as a slave did not allow her much insight – she could feel it rumbling through the pack like the aftershock of the red star. The Director had come to interrogate he with his irish companion, a shaggy brute of a wolf-dog who had seemed content to silently observe the questions that the man asked. He wandered passed the tower so often – and she could spot him easily from the crimson scarf that was so often twisted about his neck.

Now he carried a rabbits foot – and it seemed strange and out of place on the countenance of a soldier.

”The Director came to speak to me,” She offered, ”But I don’t know what he thought I could know.”

She hummed softly, twitching her ears as he set about laying the kettle amongst the coals of his fire. The wall of ruins that crumbled around them matched the feeling that came from the boys eyes – for bright as they were there was something troubles about them, as if he was frayed about the edges like a tapestry undone.

”What do you think happened?”






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#6
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pump your veins with gushing gold

His blue eyes, deep to the mirror of her summer skylight hues, were on her as she spoke. It seemed as though his uncle had reason, after all, to inspect even those which were bent beneath the Queen's thumb.

Julius wasn't certain how to discern this detail, but he clutched onto it, tightly, should he need to examine his allegiances later.

"Well, you did come from the outside," he wondered allowed, though his slender features had gone still and unreadable as he went to sit, cradling his cup between his palms before he blew, careful, into the hot tea to cool it. There was a twitch of his tall ears. Her guess was as good as his.

"Someone took him by surprise. Some heretic, some savage, from some place far away," he answered, though his voice took to gravel. He drowned it suddenly with a pull of tea through his lips before he lapped at the still-searingly hot liquid. The roof of his mouth burned, and he winced a bit at it. "I don't know."

He paused a and watched the pool and sway of black leaves at the bottom of his cup. "Odalis, do you believe that curses are real?"


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#7
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The Outside. It seemed such a strange thing now to consider that at one time she had been on the Outside of Salsola – a member of a different Kingdom, a Kingdom wreathed in blue and gold. Sometimes she lost herself to the memory of Solomon and the Court of Miracles – ignoring the painful tightening of her gut when she thought of Ciprian Tenebriso and all the terror he had left in his wake. She sighed softly, inhaling sharply the scent of the boiling tea as the sharp-nosed man began to serve it to her.

His voice was carefully thoughtful, and she listened with a hum before she responded.

”I suppose you are right.” She picked at a loose thread that peeked out from the edge of her hem, ”There are others that know the Kingdom better than I do – like you, you were born here. I do not want for the strange noble life that this place offers like a carrot before a horse.” She sighed softly, ”I struggle with it all. What kind of life will I lead past all this?”

She gestured at her tarnished sweater and hung her head to lap sadly at her tea.

”Curses?” She wiped her mouth politely, ”I suppose so. Why?”





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#8
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pump your veins with gushing gold

"Just a curious thought," Julius had replied, his voice soft, the curl of his smile small - it didn't reach his eyes, and instead he let his muzzle hover over his drink, allowing himself to drift-drift-drift a little in his thoughts.

"I don't understand the sentiment, I'm afraid," Julius answered, truthfully, in the face of Odalis's plight. "I've never known anything more - all there is is the social elite, the adoration of your peers, and the climb, climb, climb. Are you telling me that there is a different way to live?"

Surely not. Julius suddenly looked so, so exhausted, his face long and morose. All there was was the climb. The climb, the climb. He stared down at the eyes reflected back to him in his cup, and the yawn of his pupils, empty and waiting.

"But, I suppose in recent events, that the climb is not all it seems to be. Even at the top, no one is untouchable." It was a dangerous thought. An awful, awful, dangerous thoughts, and his brow knit before he lapped, slow, at his drink, and looked to his company.

"Are you content to live modestly, then - if you are not so ambitious to chase the carrot?" Julius stared at Odalis, her head wreathed in that billowing fiery hue, her face pretty despite the hand fate had dealt her and marked her with, and there was a curiosity in the way he studied the girl.

He wondered - if she had been free, where would she go? What else was there, that he did not know, that the Kingdom had not touched?


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#9
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”The higher you climb the farther the fall.” Odalis hummed softly, ”There is only so much protection that the Family can offer.”

She chuckled but it was a dry sound, hollow like the sound of leaves rattling together. ”There is no climb for a servant save for the one that pulls me into bed at the end of a long day.” She offered a crooked smile, ”Here I am invisible.” In Salsola the servants were frowned upon or held in high esteem – an esteem that came through the threads that bound them to their Families of note.

Odalis was tied to a Revlis – a strange witch of a woman who seemed different sometimes, as if she was caught in a strange dance between the light and the dark.

”What even is freedom anymore?” She glared for a moment as she sipped her tea, ”I do not remember what it is like to wander unburdened.” She tugged the collar, ”To walk without a constant reminder that I am hers.

Suddenly she grinned at him but the edges of it were sad. "But really, you all are. You just don't have a visible collar to show for it."





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