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Tue Jul 09, 2019 10:54 am
The woven basket, full of fish, bounced lightly against her back as she jogged ahead where the trees began to thin and the scent of Luperci grew stronger. Willow walked with a confidence not found in her companion, whose darting eyes suggested he would rather be walking through the shadows than boldly on the trail. Glancing back at him, she worried that he didn't like this plan at all.
But O'Brien smiled at her, if a small smile, and she felt like she could breathe.
The campsite was quiet when they reached its perimeter. Willow looked for Iomair or Fennore or anyone else she might know, but the only figure she saw was a girl, soft browns and greys, brushing out a grey horse Willow recognized. Hearing their approach, the girl glanced toward them, silver hair spilling over her shoulder.
"We're here t' see Athras," Willow explained, shrugging off the fish basket.
Golden eyes narrowed in the face of Willow's smile. "I'll fetch Lord Eryn for you," she replied, mildly enough, and ran the brush once more through the stallion's mane before she retreated back into the ferns to collect the druid.
With nothing to do but wait, Willow leaned her shoulder against O'Brien's.
"Are ye sure aboot walkin' intae their camp like this?"
"We're bringing gifts!"
O'Brien glanced at the thing in his hand. "This isnae worth much."
Willow's eyes twinkled at him. "He'll like it."
Thu Jul 11, 2019 3:03 pm
“Lord Eryn.” The voice sounded louder than it was. It was a sweet, demure thing not unlike the soft pink petals of fresh spring blooms but it sounded somehow grating now. Athras grit his teeth. His lids squeezed tighter together, his eyes reluctant to open. “Lord Eryn?” A little more timid this time, the girl fidgeted at the tension in his handsome face.
“Aerin,” he said coolly. “You know better than to interrupt my meditations.” He sat before the makeshift shrine, head bowed, legs folded, hands resting one on each knee. It was little more than an assortment of twigs and vines, flowers...bones, all twisted together to form a circle and hung from a gnarled tree. In the center was a hollow in which the carved idol of Nanin rested, the wicked tines of his antlers sharp, his chest thick with a mane of leaves. Deeper within were two small statuettes, also carved from wood- crude canine shapes. The girl eyed these with sadness, longing.
She bowed her head, murmuring apologetically. “Yes, Lord Eryn.” Her lips parted as if to speak again, but he didn’t see. He rolled his shoulders and settled into himself once more. She tugged at her dress and tried again. “It's just...You have guests, my lord.” His eyes flashed open.
“Why didn’t you say so?” He chided mildly with a bright, jovial grin. Athras took to his feet, shedding the serenity of his trance-like state, the tension her intrusion had seeped into his bones. “Come, sprite! Take me to them.”
“Yes, Lord Eryn.” The girl said, leading him to where Willow and her companion awaited them. She paused when the forest lord slipped his fingers deftly into hers, a soft slight tremor running through her hand.
“Athras, my sweet.” He said, as if reminding her for the umpteenth time. “You may call me Athras.” Aerin nodded, but didn’t correct herself, she was far too concerned with the fingers in her own and the flutter in her chest. He bent to place a gentle peck on her forehead then the two of them continued into camp.
He saw Willow first, her wild chestnut hair with it’s top-knot and pale, speckled throat unmistakable. But she wasn’t alone...Whatever clever quip he’d chosen to greet her died in his throat as he set eyes on the lanky, black and tan dog in nondescript clothing. His eyebrow gave the faintest quirk, muzzle turning up just slightly at the ends. He’d since dropped the hand of the yearling who stood just behind as if she felt unworthy to stand at his side. She remained there, eyeing the strangers and awaiting her lord’s wishes.
His eyes fell to the basket Willow bore then the antler in the dog’s grip. “For me?” He positively purred looking at O’Brien. “You should have.” His grin widened and he exchanged a playful glance with Willow. Then opened his hands to receive and took the moss-covered antler from O’Brien carefully as if it were a sacred relic and not a rotting mass of bone. He handed it to the girl behind him who took it without question.
“Take this to the shrine.” He said to her softly, noting the suspicion with which she looked to the pair. “They’re friends, sprite.” Athras assured and said to O’Brien, “at least, I do hope so.” Aerin hesitated but Athras bade her to leave with a brief touch to her back and an, “off you go, now.” She obeyed, leaving the trio to their visit, but not without a look back moments before disappearing into the trees.
“Aerin.” He informed them. “Her family were vassals to mine in Caledonia.” The brightness of his eyes dimmed, darkening, “I’m all she has now.” He tugged the trim of his robe adjusting it just so, smoothing the edges of the v-shaped neckline against the smooth velvet of his chest. And chased away the gloom with a fond smile. "Willow! It's so good to see you!" He welcomed her with open arms, touching his nose to her cheeks before pausing to size up her friend with interest. "Lord Athras Eryn of Caledonia." He reached for his hand, "soon to be Lord-Regent of New Caledonia."
Mon Jul 15, 2019 3:42 pm
He watched Willow as she watched the trail—noted the prick of her ears, the shine in her blue eyes, the hopeful tilt of her tufted chin, and the way her breath seemed to catch lightly when the bracken bowed and the figures emerged.
But her expression and posture changed then; a feisty grin curled her lips, and her eyes thinned with good humor. She looked confident, playful.
O'Brien huffed with faint amusement, then looked up to meet Athras Eryn.
Earth and shadow, the man was long-legged and svelte, built much like a lurcher, with a slant to his cyan eyes that spoke of wilder heritage. Long, straight hair fell with half-braids down to his collarbone, exposed with the deep dip of dark robes. He carried himself like a lord as he strode toward them, but the rogue could recognize the deliberate softness of his slinking gait. He tilted his head.
Well, some things were starting to make sense.
The bright eyes slid toward O'Brien curiously, and the thief tightened his grip on the length of the antler, fighting the instinct to retreat. Only when Athras purred and reached for the gift did he relinquish it, a little too quick to rid himself of the moss-covered thing. Willow chuckled, though he could feel her reassuring smile.
Athras addressed the girl who'd fetched him, and introduced her when she retreated back into the trees. Willow was watching her go, her expression thoughtful then sympathetic when Athras explained Aerin had none left but him. O'Brien was watching a sliver of white.
Then brightness entered the Caledonian's voice as he greeted them, and Willow grinned and moved into his embrace, ducking her head a little shyly. "Good t' see ya too," she replied, and stepped back when Athras reached for O'Brien's hand. Her brows shot up. "New Caledonia?" A bewildered smile spread across her muzzle. "So yer doin' this," she said, her voice a little softer, full of wonder.
Feeling overwhelmed and rather like his head had been stuffed with wool, O'Brien stepped forward to shake the lord's hand. "O'Brien," he replied. "Just O'Brien."
"O'Brien is my good friend," Willow said, and her warm hand scooped his other one up, fingers interlacing with his to make it clear what friend meant.
"Will'a told me a lot aboot ye," the mongrel said, smiling awkwardly.
That little game trail between those birch trees looked very inviting, he thought. He could move quickly through the trees. He had a feeling Athras would be just as fast.
Wed Jul 17, 2019 9:18 pm
Hands coiled tightly around the mass of bone relinquished their gift deceptively fast, the tension in the dog's quick fingers releasing as if shocked by errant lightning. Athras’s brow rose subtly higher, his lips pulling ever so slightly tighter, bemused.
In the moments between the girl’s leaving and Athras’s enthusiastic reception the shadow noted the path of the dog’s eyes. How they traced the sliver of white on his smooth furred chest. He followed it, catching the man when his gaze inevitably lifted. He winked. Then, eyes bright he drew Willow into a warm embrace, nose whispering against her cheeks. She perked up instantly at the news and his long thick tail swayed gently behind him. His smile grew, a sharp clever thing and his eyes seemed to glint with possibility. “Naturally.” He said, “is that all that caught your attention?” Athras chuckled, noting how she hadn’t commented on his higher station. Of course he wasn’t about to let that go without the appropriate congratulations. It was, after all, his right. That and so much more…
Athras took O’Brien’s hand in his own and let it linger. “Oh, I’m sure there’s a great deal more to you. You just haven’t discovered it yet.” Purred the lord, then his attention shifted to Willow. Her hand slipped into the dog’s and suddenly he understood. He leveled a glance at her with the clever slant of his eyes, then took in the two of them together standing hand in hand and his smile grew, a knowing glimmer in his cyan eyes.
“Is that so?” He said, brow quirking then added slyly, seductively, “the best kind of friends.” His ear twitched towards O’Brien and his expression was curious, contemplative in a way. He looked him over once again, nothing more than a quick scan with those bright, intelligent eyes. The shadow wet his lips.
“Good things, I trust?” He threw Willow a playful glance, “It’s a shame she never mentioned you.” His lips quirked, “of course, if I had a special friend like you I might’ve wanted to keep him all to myself. But then, where’s the fun in that?” He chuckled, knowing full well the seeds he had planted, then gestured further into the camp toward the section darkened by trees and marked by soft earthen beds. “Well, come then. That basket looks heavy.”
Thu Aug 01, 2019 10:47 am
When Athras' nose brushed her cheeks, Willow breathed in the scent of him: each time more forest than smoke. He would become lord of more than ashes, as he not-so-coyly drew attention to—though the humble Cormier woman played dumb a few more moments. Truth be told, it was only the inflection of his silver tongue that hinted at his new title, because Willow knew nothing of royalty. Hers were captains and quartermasters and navigators, shipmates' titles without a sea. Pursing her lips and furrowing her brow, she stared at him.
Then smiled and, with a gentle roll of her eyes, inclined her head. Congratulations, she said. It might have been sarcastic coming from anyone else, but her blue eyes were kind after they completed their rotation, lingering on the nobleman. Happy for ya. All of ya, she added, her tail wagging, her smile soft. Not everyone gets a chance t' rebuild like this.
But Willow was incapable of bitterness or jealousy at this new development, especially with the distraction at hand. A hundred minnows seemed to flicker in her belly, swimming to and fro, though the school settled as Athras' hand lingered on O'Brien's and the latter's throat bobbed. She met the pickpocket's eyes, an apologetic quirk to her brows and mouth, but—
Whatever was going through O'Brien's head he recovered from when her fingers interlaced with his, and Athras stared between them, savvy and intrigued. Flushing, Willow laughed at his quip, then shrugged.
Mostly guid. She was trying tae be convincing.
Willow rolled her eyes again, then poked her tongue out at Athras. Y' make it difficult t' say good things. But you also speak for yourself, she said, and—boldly—let her eyes linger on the rogue's svelte, dark features. It made her feel a little off-kilter, a little like she was putting on a show, but she leaned into the playfulness of it. She was glad, too, for O'Brien's grip, especially when he squeezed her hand back and gave her a long-suffering look. She laughed again, characteristically loud.
Athras invited them deeper into the camp, where she'd seen him reclining on the soft bed of pine needles and moss and fallen leaves, and Willow grinned. She pulled away from O'Brien and walked confidently into the Caledonian's camp, her gait upbeat with the swing of hips and bushy tail, pulling the basket down from her shoulder. She barely heard the men's footfalls behind her.
What're yer plans? Willow asked as she placed the woven container down. Are ya stayin' here? What's a Lord Regent do?
Thu Aug 01, 2019 11:25 am
Deft fingers lingered on his hand, and Athras purred cryptically.
O'Brien said nothing in response, coldness opening up in his chest, the cream of his throat bobbing with swallowed nervousness. His earthen gaze met the cool sky-blues of the lord, then moved past him to the shadowed branches around them, as if looking for something.
Willow's warm hand distracted him from the compulsion, and O'Brien looked at her, his expression far-off and his pupils wide.
He recovered quickly, snorting at Athras' comment about good things being said (after flushing at the implication of their good friendship). Mostly guid. She was trying tae be convincing.
His tone was lighthearted, though that was the truth of the matter. Willow quite liked this man—he could plainly see this now, as well as why; Athras' presence did indeed speak for itself—and she'd been afraid of O'Brien's rejection. Again, he considered jealousy, and again he dismissed it, because her soft hand and her loud laughter was the perfect balance to the fear-cold and something-hot that was using O'Brien's body as an unwilling medium.
He was almost hurt that Willow had said nothing of him, though.
"Of course, if I had a special friend like you I might've wanted to keep him all to myself. But then, where's the fun in that?"
O'Brien glanced Athras' way with raised brows, thinking that surely all this teasing was for Willow's sake, but those cyan eyes lingered. The lord's laughter broke the tension, but then Willow was gone, and walking ahead of them several paces toward the tree-shaded corner Athras' gesture indicated.
Left behind, the pickpocket glanced at the lord. He tried to shake his head and smile fondly, man-to-man about Willow, but his expression felt stiff. Again feeling out of his depth and consumed with the desire to flee, he lowered his head and, with a swish of his no-color cloak, followed the woman.
When Athras walked beside him, O'Brien instinctually kept pace.
Willow seemed comfortable and familiar enough with this place to set her belongings down and chatter to Athras about New Caledonia. As she filled the quiet with her talk, O'Brien stopped, only to find Athras standing beside him still. Even a small gesture, it was obviously provocative, and O'Brien summoned the stones to tilt his head toward Athras and raise his brows.
You don't have to keep playing this game, his glance said, because that was still all O'Brien believed it was.
Wed Aug 14, 2019 3:17 pm
With slightly raised brows and a twinkle in his eye he opposed the woman’s expression, waiting ever-so-patiently for her praise. “Ah, there it is!” He teased jovially, teeth flashing in a merry grin. It wasn’t until later would he learn that her hesitation stemmed from a lack of familiarity with Caledonian titles. But the thought simply hadn’t occurred to him.
He gave a nod, smile fading with sudden-- albeit mild-- solemnity. “Our traditions span generations. It was never a question of ‘if’, merely ‘when.’” They had lost the war, but so long as he drew breath they would never forsake their traditions. These newcomers were necessary, he knew this as Caledonian blood was rare. But they brought with them their own cultures, their own traditions...their own gods. A proper education was required.
As the topic changed, Athras became more and more intrigued by Willow’s good friend. He noted O’Brien’s shifting gaze with bemusement. Flighty, he thought, comparing him to the likes of a little bobbing bird, liable to hop away at a moment’s notice. He sincerely hoped that wasn’t the case. But he did so love a good chase.
“Mostly?!" He said, affected before adding in a smooth drawl. “How ever will I recover?” He glanced sidelong at O’Brien, narrowing his eyes seductively once he noticed the path of Willow’s gaze. His ears twitched as Willow gave a peal of laughter that was, as usual, too loud. His smile became briefly tight-lipped, but relaxed once the volume lowered to a normal, more conversational level.
O’Brien was more deer than dog, it seemed, spooking at the slightest provocation. It was its own thrill, though unintentional. He drank it up, quirking his brow at the man’s odd glance, as if he were an innocent in the game they played. When Willow made the move deeper into the camp, both O’Brien and Athras held back. Both conveyed a semblance of warmth and intent towards the cheerful chestnut woman, Athras chuckling softly. Though his keen eyes saw far more. It was just a moment, a pregnant pause before their similarly silent footsteps fell into step with one anothers.
“Our scout has found a promising place up north, so perhaps we’ll head there.” He replied to the woman, keeping pace with rogue his body angled just slightly towards him. “So many questions.” He chuckled softly to O’Brien, just as fond as he’d been before, though not as stiff. He was quite relaxed, his gait slow and steady, ever-silent.
“You don’t know?” He called to Willow, brow quirking. His arm had lifted from his side to grace the back of O’Brien’s shoulder, ushering him gently into camp. “A Regent serves as co-counsel to a king. His "second-in-command," as it were.” He explained, hand lingering between O’Brien’s shoulder-blades. “But it’s much more than that. In the event of the King’s absence their Regent assumes their authority, and rules in the king’s stead until he returns, or until an heir is found.”
He met the incredulous gaze of O’Brien beside him with an enigmatic smile, his hand tracing a slow and tantalizing path across his shoulder and part-way down his arm before coming to rest at his side.