[M] Don't blink, everything might break

[p. Mara]

POSTED: Mon Jun 08, 2015 10:29 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.


He sat in the library, staring out the window. It was bright day, as bright a day as it could be. The door was left open and another woman sat in the corner in a plush chair reading, curled up in her lap and engrossed in her book. It was as public a place as it could get, which meant that the King was far more comfortable meeting her here. This was a place they had to be responsible as all eyes were on them and could be on them at any given moment.

The King sat on one of the other couches in the library, the smell of dust and paper heavy in the room. It was relaxing and he was happily shutting his eyes for a moment. It would be shattered soon, he knew, the moment she walked into the large room and her presence took up all of his focus. The sun was warm on his pelt where it hit through the glass windows, clean and dust free thanks to their Magistrate. She was everywhere, keeping things tidy.

In his hands was a book of shoved together pages and scribbled notes, imprints and crude sketches. It was a book he kept in his private rooms, away from prying eyes. His memories of those days were getting hazier but some things still stuck out fresh in his mind as though he had just experienced them. Others may have had it worse than he did, but to him, this had been his Vietnam.

HAHA I BET EVERYONE IS LIKE "JUST DO IT" BUT NAH.

SILVANO SADIRA
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POSTED: Mon Jun 08, 2015 11:07 pm

300+ you're probably right but it's the kind of beat that go

The bright day meant that heat gathered along the darker parts of her body; most notably, her face and arms. Even the backs of her ears drew the sun's warmth, and it reminded the foreign-born woman of her misspent youth on white shores, flickering in and out of view among the pristine blue waters.

Strolling toward the library, the Baroness hid under the shade offered by newly commissioned hood. It wasn't long enough to be considered a vest—it ended rather unceremoniously at the third or fourth rib—but also failed to restrict movement, which had been a sticking point she refused to be swayed on. A number of people passed, going the other direction; Haven on his way to the training grounds and Myrtle with a bird, but she paid them little enough attention.

He'd requested a public venue for their informal meeting, which wasn't altogether odd... it was, however, different. Every encounter up until this one had been unintentional or private, but the cost of the things said during them had taken their toll. To continue down the path they'd stumbled upon all unwittingly was to live a life of folly. For all the courtly gestures, Cour des Miracles was not a land of fairytales, where everyone got what they deserved and lived happily ever after.

Sweeping through the open door on the tail end of a summer breeze, Mara espied Madilyn in a comfortable chair and bobbed her head in the direction of the pack's multi-talented elder, receiving a courteous (but sly-eyed) inclination of the head in return. Tossing the hood back against her shoulders with a flourish, the fabric melted into the brown-black color of her fur. Exchanging a dubious look with her King from opposite ends of the room, the Baroness paused only to offer her due diligence, a swift bow from the waist, and then made to sit down across from him, one leg quickly folded over the other.

Among other things, the cocker spaniel mix was a notorious gossip, and she doubted very much that anything that could be discreetly slipped under her nose. It was either the wisest decision Silvano had made thus far, or the worst. Pulling a book from the crook of her arm, Mara offered a wistful smile.

Would you be against the idea of an espyòn becoming a military strategist as well? The click-clack of sewing needles paused and the blue-eyed woman's smile turned self-indulgent. When the sound swiftly resumed, it deepened; the court's local blather-mouth could chew on that revelation for a while.


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POSTED: Tue Jun 09, 2015 12:17 am

The sound of feet on wood, nails clacking, made the King slowly open his eyes. Her scent was there again and he could feel his joints lock up. It took the critical eye of Madilyn to ease the fluid back into his joints and melt the stiffness that grew. He could not act the way he did with Mara in so public a place. He could not be so informal and reach out to touch her flesh with the familiarity of a close companion. They had to keep respectful distances apart with only sanctioned, appropriate contact. Otherwise the rumors would fly that Madilyn had seen the King and Baroness behaving far too intimately for two people talking about work.

Silvano smiled at the dog mix and at the venerable Magistrate who had put down her book and took out the knitting needles. Her smile was somehow knowing and he knew she only knit to better hear every single thing they said. A book was distracting and with mindless needlework, it was easier to get something done while getting all the best gossip. Sneaky old woman, what a wonderful find for their Court. He was glad she was here, it would be easier to convince others if the need ever came that Mara and he were nothing more than ruler and subject.

"I don't think I would be. You ought to know how to steer clear of the messes we have made." Unfortunately for them all, Silvano had little idea on the nature of the war from the Court's perspective, having been a part of Crimson Dreams at the time. "You should know something of what has happened to be able to get us out of these messes." he eyed her carefully, keeping himself composed as Madilyn went on clicking with those needles. "What do you want to know?"

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POSTED: Tue Jun 09, 2015 1:08 am

500+

She'd chosen her various jobs with great care. An ambassador would be a welcome sight almost anywhere (much as a lautari or minstrel might be), while a spy would forever be frowned upon, and a becoming a tactician—the perfect combination of scholarly intelligence and physical prowess—would create a sort of bridge between the military and information tiers.

Mara owed this line of thinking, in part, to Linden Aatte; he'd mentioned once upon a time during a summer day not unlike this one that they were strong but blind, a thought that had long-since resonated with her. Now, almost a year later, they had no less than four pairs of eager eyes to aid in the arduous process of gathering information. It was past time to wed the two ideals for the betterment of the Court, so when Silvano raised no real protestations, she nodded as though it had been he himself who'd suggested such a thing.

I figured you wouldn't, however... Mara's voice trailed off and her gaze wandered, touching on his neck, the breadth of his shoulders, his hands. assumptions can be dangerous. Especially in her line of work. Though she spoke at a reasonable volume, her smile suggested that she knew something, and whatever it was, it wasn't suitable for the aristocratic mannerisms so beloved by the group of hybrids, vagabonds, and lost souls.

Leaning forward to peer at the faceless tome he'd brought with him, the Baroness made a sweeping motion with two fingers as if to suggest it was time to look at it. She could read upside down with some difficulty, as anything beyond two or three syllables took longer and was more onerous to puzzle out. He would have to read it aloud, she supposed, if they were to make any sort of headway. As your ambassador, Her smile turned, becoming more amused than ornery. It's my job to keep us out of trouble. Should diplomacy fail, however, military tactics will keep me involved. Personal freedom was her ultimate motivation, but there was a bright spark of ambition in the mix as well. It blazed today, no longer a mere candle flame but a raging inferno.

Do you know if the numbers on each side were relatively even? She began her series of questions, rattling them off with her rolling Creole accent. Had they brought horses, had the terrain been taken into consideration, how had the Dreamers and the Courtiers come together?

Clausewitz's book was enlightening, but thus far it had proved itself to be far less informative than she'd initially hoped. It didn't help matters any that, even for a highly literate woman, the wolfdog struggled with more than a few words found within the yellowed pages. For a few days now she'd considered enlisting Pascal in an effort to further aid her studies, but refrained. Somehow it seemed unethical... and she couldn't say with any real why that was.


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POSTED: Tue Jun 09, 2015 2:03 am

This was going to be a challenge, thought the man as he carefully held onto the book. He had made notes and additions when he found out new things but it was hardly complete. It would never be complete and he knew that. It was as complete as he could make it. The sweeping gesture of her fingers made his breath hitch and he opened the book gingerly, as if afraid of what it would have within. There were memories even in this book, of blood, tears, love. And it all burned in the back of his eyes.

"Understand this. There are things I don't know. There are things I cannot find out but I can tell you what I know from my family's side and a little from the Court. Haven gave me some information to fill in those gaps. I cannot tell you much about Aniwaya as I did not.. I did not talk to many from there. I knew those that died there, though," he said softly, thinking on the man he killed and the people he saw laying dead on the ground. How many more dead lay there? How many had their lifelines cut short as his went on?

With a breath, he opened up the page. It was haphazardly organized, pages taken out and rearranged to fit a timeline he had slowly pieced together. A rough patch of notes were scribbled with a name. Maska. "Maska Ahote. The whole reason a whole bunch of people died. And it was not even, not by a long shot. They were severely outnumbered. They drew in first Crimson Dreams, and then the Court got involved. It was a mess because they did not know when to quit." He did not mention the fanatical radicalism that lead to the death of almost twenty Aniwayans. Enough had died to fill a new pack and keep it strong, wiped off the face of the earth.

"He came from their original tribe and demoted the leadership. He took over and started preparing them for war. You've seen my horse, yes?" he asked, before heading right on. "I got him from Liliana Utina. I was also the one who found her dead body in Crimson Dreams." That came later, but it was just another name, another fading face. "She didn't even die to the fighting." It had been an accident that he had come upon, a startled horse looking for help. "Anyway, he had tried to recruit her to train war horses, but she refused, and she was forced to flee with her family to my family's pack. We got involved." The silence came on as he thought, touching the page with Maska's name, his vague description. So many memories, and so much that he himself had participated in.

"Then they decided to try to raid my home. That really drew us in. They took people but we got Claudius. I got him." It had been the first moment he had been involved and it had been a successful move.

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POSTED: Tue Jun 09, 2015 5:05 pm

500+

Her King regarded his writings with such despair that she began to question where or not this was a sensible thing to have asked him. There was Haven of course, but their relationship to one another could hardly be defined as close, having only seen him a few times, and sparred together less than that. Trusting that Silvano would tell her if he was unable to continue for whatever reason, she folded her arms tightly.

It wouldn't do, even now, to reach out a comforting hand under the watchful eye of Madilyn.

He began to speak of the Aniwayan war and Mara fell into a peculiar silence. It was not mere contentment to listen that lulled her into laconism, but an infinitesimal amount of respect for the feats he'd accomplished. For two-and-a-half years she'd known nothing save peacetime, not including the fairly consistent tensions with Inferni that brewed here and there, nor the dark shrouds that masked the men and women who'd returned from sea voyages with as much blood on their hands than they did gold in their pockets.

She heard the clarion call of trumpets and the clash of steel-on-steel, the wild scream of dying horses and proclamations of those already at death's door. Mara’s imaginings were nothing compared to the gruesome truth, but it comforted her somewhat to remember soldiers—some long-since dead and some currently alive—as being heroic instead of mere cogs in the machinations of war.

Her imagination thundered like a war drum hidden just out of sight, bringing to life the events he read about.

We got Claudius. I got him.

An irrepressible shudder ran down the length of her spine; despite knowing that the war hadn't unfolded as it so often did in the books she read (they didn't have tens of thousands of men and women at their disposal after all) she could not help the mental image that surfaced, covered in red brine. She pictured him wading into the fray... through the carnage so that he might strike at the heart of a great, tangled mess of limbs.

Did Maska kill Liliana for running? She wondered aloud, both looking for and dreading the answer. There were many reasons to kill a man, and very few of them were good ones. It was egregious to the ambassador that someone should be slain for upholding their moral values, for running away from a fight. There was no honor in it, just as there was no honor in war.

The dead didn't hold to such values anyway, she supposed, given that things such as noble deeds and valiant hearts were of no use to them in the golden fields of Elysium. Why did they bring you into it—why provoke a second pack when you're already at war with another? This was not, strictly speaking, a question, but a wisp of audible thought. Her disbelief was apparent enough, though not toward the truthfulness of his records, merely the folly of a power-mad tyrant.


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POSTED: Tue Jun 09, 2015 6:43 pm

He blinked. He had been unclear. "No, Maska did not have her killed, but he tried to get her and her family back. Her mate was a warrior of their tribe and she had two young children. Her mate's sister had fled with them too." The details were fuzzy. He could not remember Liliana's face or her voice. He barely remembered his family's faces and voices, except when he shut his eyes for a long time. It was hard to remember and even harder to imagine them all aging. Did his mother have grey in that shiny black fur now?

"Let me explain. The Utinas - that was their family name - came to Crimson Dreams for refuge and my mother gave it to them." He thought of them in their makeshift home in the wilds of the Dreamer's lands. They did not take a permanent home; they had expected to go home. Where were they now, her mate and her children? So many questions and no way to get an answer. Would Claudius know? Maybe, but Silvano hesitated to call upon the man ever since he had practically tortured the man, even if it was four long years prior.

"I was part of Crimson Dreams then. I did not join the Court until later, when my aunt disbanded the Dreamers." It was a bittersweet thought, these memories. He had been a yearling, he was sure. Or thereabout. "Maska took Foxglove, Vigilante's.. niece, I think. So he took a group of Courtiers - Haven among them - to liberate her. That is how Aniwaya brought the Court in." It was simple and it had been stupid. Maska underestimated them all and overestimated his ability to lead through fear. "My aunt, Anu, was freed from Aniwaya - I think I forgot to mention they had raided Crimson Dreams and took her and a cousin of mine." Silvano gave a weak chuckle, running his hand through his hair, brushing out the usually curly hair into waves. Length made it heavier and far less coiled.

He took a breath. It was better to get it all out at once so that the questions would be easier to answer. He flipped through the pages, pausing where notable information popped out at him. "So Maska, being an idiot," he paused with a grin. "- decided that it was in his best interest to raid both the Court and the Dreamers. I..," he paused, the page beneath his hands with a few pressed flowers and a length of hair. His throat tightened as he stared at it, unable to move.

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POSTED: Wed Jun 10, 2015 10:58 am

Idly she thought upon the tangled web of relations that so many generations had woven. He spoke of aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces… Mara struggled to keep them all straight, and wondered whether there was a book she might consult that would clarify them. Some had been freed, he continued on to say, while Foxglove had not; this was, of course, what she understood and not necessarily what he’d meant to convey. Focusing instead on the mistakes of Maska and the allied packs, she sifted through the reasons and looked instead at choices. The book laid out before them both was a pentimento of history, she understood, and the truth likely lay somewhere in between.

Silvano was speaking, smiling even, and then he wasn't. It fell between them, this peculiar lack of sound. Looking for the source, she turned briefly to the Magistrate and found nothing, so brought her attention back around.

A page had stopped him in his tracks, and Mara—who didn’t understand the significance of those things laid out—peered at him curiously, unsure whether to question him on the contents (hair, flowers) or wait it out in silence. Her many roles waged their own private battles; the ambassador wanted to reach the bottom of the problem, the spy wanted to know what the problem was, and the friend longed to comfort. In the end, no one won and silence prevailed.

Madilyn's knitting needles had fallen silent as well; the wolfdog was aware of her watchful eyes and paid little heed to them, reaching out instead to cover her King's hand with her own. Other people's sorrow discomfited her to varying degrees, one of many reasons she had not volunteered her services as a counselor or chaplain.

A friend? She suggested eventually, afraid of the answer. The more she asked, the more she regretted asking. It was the nature of her job to ask questions, of course, but the answers weighed heavily upon her mind.

The chronological order of events was murky in her head, but becoming steadily clearer. Maska, and AniWayan, had arrived and immediately begun to train them in the brutal art of warfare; the Dreamers had been attacked shortly thereafter, seemingly without reason; hostages were taken and traded, some of them named, some of them not. It seemed to Mara that, in the end, the tribal chief’s greatest miscalculation had been his callous disregard for the ties between groups and how they would later come together to dismantle his war efforts.


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POSTED: Wed Jun 10, 2015 4:35 pm

The hand upon his startled him. It was like a shock that sent warmth to reawaken his suddenly comatose mind. He blinked rapidly, twitching into stiffness. He looked about as though confused, and cleared his throat. He pulled his hand out from under her touch, afraid of what it felt like. Madilyn had stopped her knitting, the clacking a notable absence. "My mate," he said simply, his voice full of choked back emotion as he flipped the page rather carefully to keep it from creasing. He did not want to talk more about Shiloh and he hoped that neither of the women in the room would pry.

Silvano took a breath, letting it rattle around in his chest until he finally let it go. He let his grin return, though it was much shakier than his previous one was. He was shaken, of course he was, he had forgotten he had put that page there. He skipped over pages with her name, refusing to let his eyes linger on it. It was such a great shame to him, that he had done what he had. His sons had lost their mother because she chose to leave. But had he been too bad of a father? He hoped not. He had done his best and that was all that he could hope for.

"Anyway, after Aniwaya raided both the Court and the Dreamers, we all joined together to attack them. We won, decidedly, and we were holding Maska. My mother and the Court's King at the time controlled Aniwaya while they figured it out. And then a representative from the Great Tribe came and they got the pack, though they did not return the old leaders. Apparently there was some rule violations there, I don't know, I'm not Aniwayan." He shook his head and his hand, waving it away. He knew little of what happened in the Tribe so could not give even remotely an accurate comment.

"Aniwaya was forbidden warriors but they came a year later. I was already in the Court as the Dreamers had disbanded. I came here with .. her.. and the entire library of books from my old home. I was there when Claudius came asking to have them returned. I represented the Dreamers, since I was one of the only ones that remained nearby." Well, at least he had been the only one at the court from the pack. "And.. that's pretty much it."

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POSTED: Wed Jun 10, 2015 4:57 pm

300

My mate.

For Mara to have withdrawn her hand any faster would not, could not have been possible; she flinched away as if he had burned her, recoiled into the chair she sat upon, all the ease she'd held onto gone. For whatever reason she'd assumed it the page had belonged to a blood relative, or a friend who had died, but not the mate who had left him. For a spy, she was curiously uninformed on such matters, having chosen willingly to parcel them off as private affairs not needing the gaze of a spy.

His smile returned, though she made no effort to return it. This was the court; she lived here, worked here, and lately it had seemed she would die here, there was no need to keep up appearances, though she was supremely talented at just that. If he was hoping to reassure her somehow, he'd either underestimated the amount of time and effort spent trying not to look into the dimly lit hearts of her pack members, or simply assumed she would be numb to the effects. Had they not embraced if but for a moment, in a cemetery no less? Surely a stranger would deduce from that encounter alone that she must not care, but she did. More than she would have liked to admit.

As the account of the AniWayan war continued, so did the familiar tapping of needles. It was a small mercy, that. Mara focused on the words and the second, quieter sound, willing them both to come together and drown out the frantic beating of her heart.

Have you sent anyone to see them in recent years? AniWaya, she meant; it seemed a particularly cruel thing, to come together and strip an entire group of people of their right to bear arms, especially now when there were so many in the lands who would be more than willing to prey upon the weak. As it so often did, her gaze turned northward to Inferni; to Salsola, too, and then further beyond to northernmost packs, of whom little was known, and even littler seen. Only days ago, it seemed, she'd mentioned her desire to visit them in passing, looking for a subtle reason to make herself scarce, but now she felt torn, as though someone had grabbed both of her arms and proceeded to twist her in two different directions.

Thank you, that was... Painful, disturbing, disheartening, sad. All words she could have chosen, and they would have been true. Enlightening.


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