[M] Be like the sun for grace and mercy.

POSTED: Thu Feb 15, 2018 7:34 pm

WARNING: This thread contains material exceeding the general board rating of PG-13. It may contain very strong language, drug usage, graphic violence, or graphic sexual content. Reader discretion is advised.

They didn't let him out, not to see his sons, not for anything. Linden saw people only when they provided meals, which were small and uncooked. He supposed they ought to be lucky to be fed at all, but the Court was better than that – some nobility could still be found even in a people drifting far from what they ought to have been.

Guards remained posted as if fearful of escape or worse, further enemies hiding in their ranks. No one would come to free them, Linden thought. His parents had not even sought to seek him out, though this was all well and good. What would they understand of it, he wondered. Would his father recognize that there was method in setting a madwoman at the helm? They needed someone stronger than Silvano, someone who gave a damn about the place and not their own fickle heart.

They switched these people with regularity. The day after his sons were born, Linden caught the sound of a familiar voice.

He made his way to the closed door, sniffed beneath it to confirm his suspicions, and called out to the hallway.

Is that you, Skoll? His voice sounded strange to his ears. The damp weather and poor conditions had made it hoarser than usual.

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POSTED: Sat Feb 17, 2018 11:25 am

dog inhale under door noise = nice

He'd reached the ballroom to find tables and food scattered across the floor, traitors at swordpoint, his daughter bloodied but triumphant, a rebellion finished before Skoll was even been aware it had begun.

He had been terribly angry that day. He lent his muscle to what was needed, and when confident that everyone was safe went off for a run without speaking more than a word to his daughter. They argued later, of course, when he came back -- likely loud enough for the entire Court to hear them from the little hotel room, shouting about things like safety and pride, secrecy and justice, trust and love and fear.

Their reconciliation was just as fierce. Skoll cried a lot, and managed to tell Galilee how much he loved her, and how proud he was of what she had become.

But that could not be the end of it -- the end of this. Mistral and her would-be knight were prisoners of the Court. Newborn puppies squalled in the dark, dank room. Soon enough, it was Skoll's shift as guard.

The tall werewolf stood rigidly outside the door that housed the Majordomo, and when he heard the snuffle and sharp inhalations followed by his name, he grit his teeth and hesitated. Linden could not see his fur bristle, his clawed fingers flex, his muzzle wrinkle -- but perhaps he could imagine it. The floor creaked where Skoll shifted his weight, and he turned his head, leaning his temple against the door. The French slur of his voice was rough with irritation and exhaustion.

Ç'est quoi ce bordel, man?

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POSTED: Thu Feb 22, 2018 8:48 pm

He lingered by the low part of the door, but came to stand slowly. Linden had been doing a lot of thinking behind the walls of the prison cell they had put him in.

Surrender had been the only option. If he had been even a few breaths faster he might have killed Chaska and taken at least one of those foreign scum with him. They did not deserve the Court or what it might offer. Even now he imagined Silvano's weakness would soon become obvious. Without a proper ruler, the place would fall to ruin.

You must have seen it too, his voice came from the other side of the door. Exhaustion was obvious in it – but so too the whisper of command and self-control Linden so desperately tried to project. Idling like we have been was going to be this Kingdom's end, Skoll. One family prospers while the rest fade. I know he's your friend, but where do you think all of this was heading?

It was reasonable. It was too damn reasonable knowing the suffering Mistral had left in her wake.

Linden's eyes narrowed in the dark room. He chose his tone as carefully as he did his words. This was someone he knew, someone who would not be so easily fooled by any pretense. They knew him well enough to know what sort of man he was.

He looked for doors to open.

Did you see those boys in there, Skoll? She says they look like me.

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POSTED: Tue Feb 27, 2018 12:00 pm

His ragged voice was muffled from behind the wood, and from behind the mask that Linden did not abandon even now. His composure had always irked Skoll, but never more so than this moment. Even now he pretended that everything could be justified -- but it was a speech given many years too late.

Families faded. Skoll and Linden's were among them. But Skoll thought of his kin, a weary father and a sister dead before her time, and others whose names would be soon forgotten in future chapters of their history -- and he knew there was a reason that he, not they, still stood here. It was not the fault of Silvano, but his family's own weakness. He could not manage to feel more than a hint of regret and disdain.

His anger was only at Linden. His answer was curt. Would you prefer we kill each other under the reign of a mad queen? He couldn't help himself, and struck the door in lieu of Linden whom he could not reach. It was a brief show of hurt. Would Shiloh's death have been worth it?

Linden spoke again. Skoll shut his eye and leaned his head harder against the wood. No, he answered. He hadn't wanted to see them for a multitude of reasons. Even hearing their hungry squalls from the room was too much. He could imagine Linden's pain, too, and it was not hard to remember Lee when she was so small.

He couldn't give into it.

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POSTED: Wed Mar 07, 2018 1:23 pm

I haven't either, Linden said first, and the more he talked the steadier his voice became. I can hear them sometimes, but I haven't seen them. What was it like, when your daughter was born? Do you remember what she looked like?

Carefully, Linden thought of what to say. He had not thought it would come to this. There was something terrible about believing he was capable of seeing what should have happened when in fact he had missed the first in the massive sequence of events which had led them here. If things had gone differently, he and Mistral would not be trapped like this.

He hated it. His hands flexed.

What happened was unfortunate, the wolf went on, but the word felt too small. She was scared, Skoll – a pregnant woman attacked by the old King's wife? This was always about the crown.

There was a bloated pause.

Do you know who she is?

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POSTED: Sun Mar 11, 2018 2:18 am

Skoll understood what he was doing -- but he could not sympathize with the plight of this particular father, barred from his children. He ignored the question, even though it conjured up memories of that bright little form, so small tucked into Aurelya's side, a loud and bold thing even damp from birth. Instead, he asked his own.

Do you love her? Did you plan for this -- to make her a wife, to raise a family of little princes?

He could see pieces of what Linden saw in Mistral: the frightened child, the girl who'd never had a chance. But he was unnerved by the pairing. Mimi had been but a girl when she first arrived in the Court, and as brash as she was seemed like no seductress.

But Linden was getting older, too. Skoll understood the primal need to further one's own line -- especially in a dying family like theirs were.

He curled his lip -- unfortunate -- and growled in answer. And Shiloh was a mother who had seen her husband crippled, her grandchildren kidnapped, her daughter nearly killed. Could you imagine Shiloh lashing out without reason? He could not see the woman breaking except under such a terrible weight.

Silence persisted behind the door. When Linden spoke again, the silence crept onto the other side. One could be mistaken in thinking Skoll had walked away.

Who she is? the Haskel prompted at last, dwelling on disturbing thoughts. Or what?

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POSTED: Tue Mar 27, 2018 5:42 pm

No one tells a Queen what to do, was Linden's tired, humored response to Skoll. Hadn't that been what he always wanted, how he had always behaved? The throne and its crown might have belonged to the Haskel's far longer had Skoll been arrogant enough to claim such rights. That he had not suggested he valued things that Linden had once looked for in the Court.

Seeing little of this, his intentions had changed.

We're supposed to be better than this, he told the door. Linden had not missed the warning in Skoll's throaty growl, but he was not phased by it. He planted his feet and began to count the number of breaths he took until the number became a fixed one.

By then, his mind was made up.

Kingsblood twice over, that's what she is, Linden said loudly. Sometimes when he did not hear Mistral he worried, and hoped she was listening now. They would kill her soon, he feared, and then what would stop them from seeing her sons disposed of? Did you know that? I didn't believe it, knowing him – that's a line worth leading, that's our history, and it could be saved. It's happening because Silvano was weak, because his time has passed. We could leave, he said aloud, fearing this was a fading dream. I could take them away from here, so far away that no one would ever know. We could all just disappear. It could be over here, right now.

He squared his shoulders.

Open the door. We'll disappear. Things will change. It doesn't matter what happens to us.

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POSTED: Thu Apr 05, 2018 11:43 am

Kingsblood twice over.

Skoll growled again at this, but it was a low noise -- the exhausted rumbling of a beast who saw no other out, who knew even fighting was futile. He'd known, had believed the tiny queen, believed the slate of her pelt. And when he found the journal, the confused passage, it was impossible to deny.

He started to answer, but then Linden talked about leaving. Asked him to open the door.

"No," Skoll said, and with something raw and regretful in his voice: "Fuck off, Linden, you know that can't happen."

He was tired, tired of hearing Mistral's excuses for her transgressions, tired of the pain and worry. Tired of fighting. It would be easy to just let them go, wouldn't it? He could only imagine what would happen to them if they stayed. They wouldn't let Mistral live. Linden? He didn't know. And the kids?

"It wouldn't be over, it could never be over,"
Skoll said against the door. "I'm sorry Mistral lived the life she did, I'm sorry it was so fucking twisted, but Linden -- she's deluded, she's not going to stop fighting. And the Stormbringers, they aren't going to let their mom's killer go. You leave and your sons will be back with another army and God knows what will happen then."

There was one way it could work, one way that tempted him, but this was an improbability too.

His voice was scathing, challenging. "Unless you would abandon your Queen?"
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POSTED: Fri Apr 06, 2018 8:03 pm

You're a coward, Linden challenged from behind the door.

Had he ever been so desperate as to see one open? No, he did not think so. The war with Inferni had seen them in the city only once, and that battle one they might have won (he believed they could have, even now) had reason not found them first. Even in that wretched building getting out seemed like it was reasonable, possible.

Now he was not so sure. Consequence was catching up to him for the first time in a very long time. Linden growled, a low and challenging thing. It was an unusually ferocious sound for someone who held his composure together so well.

He flexed his hands again, hoping, anticipating—

Why didn't you stop her then, at the beginning? Silvano's finished. Letting her kill him would have been a mercy, and then you could have saved her, and saved this whole place. Someone like you could have stopped all of this from happening, but you didn't. You're too afraid to do what you should have done ages ago. The failure is everyone's fault. This is your chance to do something right.

Open the door. Maybe with just enough time, he could force his way free.

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POSTED: Fri Apr 06, 2018 8:23 pm

Linden growled. He was finally losing his cool; maybe he'd finally realized what he had done, siding with the wrong person in the end. Turning against his Kingdom in such a dire time, spitting on his loyalties to people like Silvano but people like Shiloh, Abigail, Mottle, Pascal too -- he was a traitor, and that was that.

Skoll could only hope that he would open his eyes, repent for his sins; he could be forgiven, in the end, if he recognized what he'd done.

He would pray for mercy, though as Linden goaded him from behind the door, sinking his words like teeth into old wounds, he found himself bereft of it.

Skoll began to bristle and unsheathed his own claws. I couldn't, a small voice argued, the dagger was at all their throats -- but a greater part, that sinner inside who'd seen this thing again and again, it laughed. You could have ended it. You should have risked everything and died for your daughter. He didn't know what had been right. He still considered that maybe they could have stopped this all before it began.

Rage was the familiar response to his anguish. He could be angry and hit things. Coping in this way was easier than confronting the thoughts head-on. There was time for that later.

Now, Skoll said, "I'll show you what's right," and barged into the room.

Linden had been waiting for him. The man looked wild and desperate, imprisoned for days and recognizing that he was at the end of his rope. The small wolf snarled at him and rushed, maybe for the door, maybe for Skoll, and then it happened quick, like dog fights did.

Teeth gnashed, bodies collided, claws ripped into fur. Smaller, weaker, without his sword, Linden was driven back quickly. Blood welled and dripped from small wounds on Skoll's body, but he ignored them and lashed out.

A red slant opened across Linden's muzzle. Skoll smashed his fist into the man's cheek and sent him reeling back, stumbling down to the floor and colliding with something there.

The big wolfdog loomed and snarled again, then fell quiet, panting. Linden was silent, and Skoll could not make out to see his face to see if he was conscious or merely accepting his defeat. Shaking his mane, Skoll muttered a curse and retreated back through the door, shutting and leaning upon it, head tilted against the wood.

The things Linden said played through his thoughts again and again, and after a moment he licked his lips and went to find someone to relieve him from his guard.
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