[P] [CtC] remember when
[Image: Orh1lXD.png]From any outsider's perspective, it had been a successful night. No hiccups or hitches like the ones the Lord-Regent had in store for them last winter, no violent coups that had played out in her head a thousand different ways at her coronation — a reality that had seemed scarcely possible, anyway, but anticipation and paranoia had led her mind to strange outcomes all those restless nights before the Court.

With the Duel now behind them, the Isiltári fluttered to and fro across the Bastion, greeting those that approached her and even those that didn't. Even with the Salsolans she remained poised and polite, swallowing down whatever hesitations she had prior to their arrival, and ones that she would undoubtedly take with her henceforth, but they would be none the wiser. Despite them being their honored guests, they were not exactly the wolfess's highest priority that night. This time, they were not so much their benefactors and saviors as they were their peers, and that alone put her much more at ease than this time last year.

She spotted Amon across the room, hovering near the entrance of the grand hall; presumably keeping a watchful eye over everything, should any of their patrons grow unreasonably rowdy. Which was a possibility, from the amount of wine and alcohol they had managed to accrue for the night, but a drunken fool was certainly no match for the Rabenuhr man. She made polite talk with him even if it was more of her talking at him and not with him, but that never seemed to bother him very much before.

Despite the winter chill just outside these doors, the warm ambiance inside the Bastion left the Moonwraith with a pleasant, almost glowing feeling, one that was moderately supplemented by the flow of blueberry wine. When she looked out to the murmuring crowds again, she smiled, taking joy in seeing their people all gathered together in their finest regalia.

They truly were becoming something of their own, a glimmering jewel of the north.

Magenta eyes drifted over to another radiant sun, the likes of which almost shone too brightly for his own good — and despite the rockiness coloring their interactions as of late, Fennore found herself in an especially gracious mood and decided to pay her old friend a visit.

Hadn't they danced here before? She remembered the quaint little necklace he had gifted her and the strange carousel of emotions that sent her on. It seemed such a distant past from where they were now.

"Calan Brecours," she announced, lightly touching his arm. Her words were emphatic, but lilting, and she set aside their previous misgivings as best she could. How long had it been since they had a proper conversation, anyhow? And who was it that was really avoiding the other?

Perhaps she knew the answer but tried to set it aside.

"Esteemed Escal. Have you been enjoying yourself this evening?"
for Cal!  Regking

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Quote:SSWM Challenge 6: Have a side thread during The Call to Court


The official events of the evening had come to a close - and not a moment too soon. It was hard enough that he had run out of wine before the Duel ended, knowing there wouldn’t be a chance to top up until after the Sun had slain the Moon.

But when that Sun was your dolt of a half-brother, stealing all the limelight? He needed a whole bathtub to drown away those feelings.

However, with the general hub-bub now behind them, the jovial energy of the party started to pick up - and with it, the trader’s mood. Maybe it was the attention being rightfully returned onto him, the real life of the party? Or maybe it was just the way he bounced back at the prospect of a fun evening to come? It was hard to say.

He was pondering just that when a familiar voice called to him, its measured tone the height of elegance. It was a voice he could have recognized everywhere, and it sent a pang straight to Calan's stomach - not in lust, nor in jealousy, but in guilt. How long had it been since he’d last heard it say his name?

Blue eyes met fuchsia as his body turned to face hers, guided by the hand resting on his arm. His ears had been correct - Fennore had indeed come to talk to him. She looked beautiful that evening: her dark blue dress striking against the pale of her fur, her hair curled and braided just so. Calan had learned to expect nothing less.

He was so lost in the surprise that she’d come up to him that he almost didn’t hear the question that she posed his way.

Was he enjoying himself? It was hard to say just yet. On the surface, surely. He’d had yet to find a party that he couldn’t enjoy at some level, no matter the circumstances. There was nothing in life that a good glass of wine and a bit of live music couldn’t fix.

But how was he really?

Tired. Depressed. Scatterbrained. Not like before - not a listless, alcohol-soaked wash of purposeless grey.

Now he just felt disappointed.

Disappointed that his new job meant he spent all his time working out of town, never seeing or interacting with anyone beyond Pippa and Amal. Disappointed that Émeraude seemed to be getting all the attention now that he was out of the picture. And disappointed that, even if he’d supposedly ‘found his purpose’, he didn’t feel any more certain of himself than before.

But he wasn’t going to tell Fennore that. Not here. Not now. This was a night of celebration for his friend, and it should remain that way. He knew the charades they all had to play better than any other. So he put on his charms, fixing his old companion with a radiant smile. “What’s not to enjoy?” he asked, gesturing to the hustle and bustle around them. “The music, the wine, the gossip… and the great news. Congratulations on your new position, my lady.” At this, the Escal bowed his head, bringing his goblet of wine up to her in a toast. “No one deserves it more than you.”

That, at least, was the truth. Calan couldn’t think of a single other luperci who worked so hard to get things in order, or who invested so much of themselves for the goodness of the Realm. And as their only Councilor at the time, it was the natural progression of things. The King would have been a fool to promote anyone else.

A commoner walked by, two full glasses of wine in hand. Calan reached for the closest one, sending a trademark wink when he heard a yelp of complaint. This goblet he presented to the fair lady with a flourish. “How are you? Is Iomair keeping you busy enough?” he asked.

He’d heard the rumours about them, of course - who hadn’t - but the blonde had immediately dismissed them as jealous speculation. It was the kind of bitter, hateful chatter that went around any time a man and a woman worked close with one another. Those kinds of rumours were completely unwarranted. After all, Calan had had enough experiences with Fennore, both good and bad, to know that she knew how to exercise boundaries.
[Image: Orh1lXD.png]It appeared she had caught him by surprise, if the look in his clear eyes was any indication. Her boldness would have been unprecedented, if the Court had occurred a handful of months earlier; it would have been far too awkward to face him, aside from the rare occasion when she had a needle in her hand and he a desire to be poked. But that was a one-off, a fluke, and probably not even of his own design.

Maybe the trace amounts of wine had something to do with it. She had always been a lightweight, even if she swore not to have more than a glass. But she didn't feel drunk, so she would have to chalk up this decision to a surprisingly sound mind.

Their distance made her unaware of his own internal struggles, none of which could be seen behind his handsome grin. This was, after all, where Calan would have found himself most at home; to not embrace that to the fullest was a waste, since the Court only came once a year. There were other parties to be had, surely, but none so grand as this. His answer was of no surprise.

The Isiltári smiled graciously at his kind words, finding herself agreeing wholeheartedly but of course not saying as much. There was no one else fit for the job, if they were being honest. But on account of her pride, Fennore told herself that she was just the natural choice because of her work ethic.

"Perhaps you will join us properly in the Courts, soon," she prodded softly, thinking the blonde might be predisposed to the Court of Dawn as it was. "I think you would make for an interesting High Lord."

'Interesting' was a word for it, for sure.

He presented her with a goblet of poison, more wine, and for a moment she considered turning it down. She had already had her fill, and she had no intentions of draining the entire glass — but Fennore would oblige, just a taste. "I must keep a clear head for this occasion, I'm afraid," she remarked before taking a small sip, "But I am sure this won't go to waste, between the both of us." Calan surely wouldn't have any qualms taking it off of her hands as quickly as he had put it there.

"I am well." She ignored the small, gnawing feeling in her stomach, the one she always felt when the King's name was involved with hers. But that much was to be expected, especially in the coming days, and there was — nor would ever be — any hidden meaning to it. "I suppose so; we have lofty ideas for the Realm in the coming months. It is certainly more responsibility, but I am excited for the challenge."

The wolfess made a humming noise in her throat, momentarily looking to the bard as he ended one song and began anew with a more upbeat, lighter one. "And you? The Dye Studio seems to be faring remarkably well under your tutelage."

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The music changed as the previous song came to a close, one jaunty tune replacing another. It caught the attention of a couple conversing nearby who stopped to murmur in appreciation, their eyes glancing over in the direction of the musicians. Ambrose was no doubt trying to encourage the partygoers to mosey their way onto to the mostly empty dance floor, if only so the real party could start. Calan would join them all in a moment. The thrill of the evening was too much for anyone to ignore its siren call, him being no exception. For now, however, the Escal filtered the noise out as best he could.

An interesting High Lord? Had he heard her correctly? He didn’t think of Fennore as the jesting type. The blond gripped his goblet tighter, genuinely caught off guard for a moment. “I think that’s a decision that’s in your hands, not mine,” Calan responded - though he beamed at the suggestion, his heart quickening. Becoming a Lord of the Realm would be everything that he had ever wanted, and then some. It had literally been his dream since he’d first set foot in these lands.

“I wouldn’t bother you too much as a Lord, you think?” he asked, trying the title out for size. Even mentioning it was enough to make his smile grow bigger, the whites of his teeth flashing. “Though, don’t worry - I wouldn’t move my shop into the Bastion.” He already had a plan for where his little emporium would go when the time came, the idea courtesy of one particular Reaver. That, however, was a discussion for another day.

When. Not if — when. Gods, had he really done enough to prove himself worthy of such a position?

He took another sip of blueberry wine, relishing in its taste. Its sweetness stuck to the roof of his mouth like syrup. Take that, Émeraude. His half-brother would be nothing in comparison the next Lord of the Dawn.

The newly-crowned Isiltári seemed less than pleased to have received a glass of wine, her nose pinching, but she treated the offer with all the grace someone of her position could muster. She made her excuses a moment later, reminding the blond of her obligations. Calan didn’t mind in the slightest. “You know that I’m always happy to drink enough for two,” he joked, giving a small, self-deprecating curtsy. “I’m not the one that has to be on duty tonight.”

He wasn’t such a fool that he didn’t recognize his own reputation. They all had their roles to play that evening, and he was no exception.

But that was what separated him from Fennore, fundamentally; that desire to challenge expectations and push boundaries. She was always looking for new ways to move mountains, and wouldn’t rest until the impossible had been achieved. Nothing about her soul would ever ‘settle’.  Hell, she’d even created her own title and position when none fit her before. Compared to her, Calan’s whole upwards trajectory looked like one happy accident after another. 

That didn’t mean that he didn’t respect that of her - in fact, that was one of the things he admired most about her. So he knew that she was underselling her excitement. “Sounds like the dream, knowing you. Any hints you can drop? Fun projects on the way?” He thought he already knew the answer, but it still didn’t hurt to try and get one for the old gossip mill.

Another song finished, and another song started. Calan took another sip of his wine. Fennore brought up the Dye Studio - the source of his pride and his never-ending exhaustion. “You say that like it’s a surprise,” he said, raising one eyebrow in mock indignation. Then he broke it with a wink. “It’s great, really. We’ve been working hard these past couple months to prepare for tonight. It seems like we got everything done - though I’m sure Pippa must be fast asleep by now,” he laughed. The merle had done the job of three these past few weeks, judging by the sheer number of garments and alterations she’d managed to put out.

He hummed, tilting his head to the side. “You should come by more often. I always seem to just miss you.” Pippa had mentioned she’d been by a few times, coming in for various adjustments and the like. It just always seemed to be a moment when Calan was manning the shop, or was trading in Amherst, or was generally running around somewhere else.

But maybe she’d been doing that on purpose.

The guilt panged in his stomach, souring the wine. He looked down towards his hands, suddenly sober. “It... would be nice to see you sometime, Fennore. Catch up. For real.”
[Image: Orh1lXD.png]He seemed floored by her assumptions, but flattered nevertheless; as he should have been. Would he bother her, though? "You would do well not to," she replied, raising an eyebrow back at him. But then she laughed again, surprising even herself with the amount of mirth she was allowing herself, and lightly shrugged her shoulders.

"Your heart is with the Realm. I am sure that you would serve us well." Their chosen paths were wildly different, she acknowledged. Calan was just as carefree as the day she first met him, hungover in the snow with some nameless stranger he sent off without a word. Back then, she had been skeptical of him, even when she did vouch on his behalf to the King. She had ample more reasons to be wary of him now, after his little drunken stunt some time ago.

And yet, she could still see promise. His work with the Studio had not escaped her. At times she thought it a miracle, but when she took a step back, she knew he showed potential. It was just a matter of putting it towards the right task.

Expectedly, the Brecours seemed more than happy to relieve her of her wine, when the time came. All he was expected to do tonight was eat, drink, and be merry. And not embarrass them in front of their guests, of course. Given he was inches away from becoming a High Lord, she trusted that this wasn't too monumental a task, lest he squander the opportunity she teased just in front of his face.

"It was divine luck that I met Penelope at La Roja all those weeks ago," she said. "I feel as though she was just the right one for the job, and she has performed wonderfully. She is used to how they conduct business in Portland, you know — when you are ready to trade for more materials, I would advise bringing her with you."

Pippa was just the fire they needed, Fennore had thought. Calan was the brains, and the seamstress manned the front lines, putting his bartered goods to use and creating beautiful, woven fineries as a result. They were flourishing, in no small part due to Calan's innovation.

But he grew peculiarly somber, his blue gaze downturned. Her ear flicked at his words, ones subtly prodding to an eventual reunion, the likes of which they hadn't experienced in ages.

There was good reason for it. Still, the wolfess had to admit that she sometimes missed his antics, his high energy and his bluntness.

"... I would like that." Maybe they needed a fresh start. There was loads of indiscretions he could hold over her head, too, but he seemed to choose not to. It only felt fair to give him the same treatment. It did little to hold onto grudges when he clearly regretted it. As he should.

"Perhaps when the dust settles from the Court, we should plan for something. Nothing special, mind you, just — something informal, maybe. A friendly visit." It was very unlike her to suggest anything unplanned or blasé, but that seemed more his speed. She could concede. A small grin graced her lips, and she swallowed another sip of wine.

"I could always use more practice, if you ever find yourself wanting your ears pierced again."

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[+554] tyvm for your patience! hopefully this helps to wrap this up!

He would serve them well? The blond blinked, unsure what to do with that sudden compliment. It wasn’t often, if ever, that someone praised him for his commitment. “That’s very kind to hear, especially coming from you.” He chased his words down with another sip of wine, if only to avoid putting his foot in his mouth. Messing up his one chance at Lord was not on the agenda for this evening.

It was a relief, then, when the conversation turned towards the familiarity of mutual friends and future plans - the kinds of things he would have expected them to discuss. These topics were much easier to manage than compliments, especially when he didn’t feel he’d done much to be rewarded for as of late.

“I don’t think it was luck,” Calan countered, smiling. “I think you’ve got a knack for bringing the right souls together.” After all, if he knew anything about Fennore, things didn’t just happen around her. He wondered what she’d said to convince the dappled tailor to join their ranks: what stories she’d woven and promises she’d made. Had any of those come to fruition yet? Was Pippa happy with her choice?

Only time would tell, he supposed. At the very least, however, he hoped as much.

Still, the Moonwraith brought up an interesting point, one that he hadn’t considered. His new business partner would make for a veritable font of knowledge when the time came to travel south... Whenever that may be. Regardless, he made a note to ask Pippa about it another time. “I’ll keep that in mind. Though that’s still a while away, I think. We’ve got lots to keep us busy here.” That was the understatement of the century. At the rate they were working, it’d be a wonder if they managed to make it to Portland this lifetime.

It was sweet to think that the dust would settle after the Court. If anything, it was only going to get busier for the Escal. But Calan knew an olive branch when he saw one, and he had no intention of refusing it. His friendship with Fennore was just too important to miss out on. “A friendly visit,” he repeated, nodding. That sounded nice. Safe. Manageable.

Then he laughed warmly at her suggestion, perhaps a little louder than he should. It felt good to do so. He hoped she was joking - not because he wanted to avoid another hole in his head, but because it meant she felt comfortable enough around him to tease him once more. That would definitely be progress. “What, are the two I have not nice enough for you?” He tilted his head at that, letting his chain earring flash in the candlelight.

As the teasing died down, however, Calan could feel their moment drawing to a close. Already he could see the way that heads kept turning in their direction, hoping to catch the Isiltari’s eyes. The audience demanded their leader, and her rounds were nowhere near done. So he held out his right hand for her goblet, ready to relieve her of her minor burden. When he spoke, his voice was warm. “Thanks for coming over. I’m glad we had a moment to talk. To be continued, then?” If his eagerness was showing, he didn’t care to hide it.

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