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Ash and Roar [Fin] Read 7807 times

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Ash and Roar [Fin]
« on: June 10, 2016, 03:43:30 pm »
And after the journey in the shining, black car with its tell-tale red eyes – her first warning - through the town that made hard candy, and the town that sold dirty, clean produce, into the forest with leaves so green they were teal and bark so dark it was old blood – another warning – and lemon-light sunshine on the other side that would fade along with the loss of greenery

there would be a last town, her last town, with a short wall without gates.



The people were weary of her vehicle, careful not to cross the street, hanging their heads in a practiced reverence and with a stiffness in their necks that looked like fear. One boy, another body dressed in dark clothes, opened his eyes wide when he saw her. Were they expecting someone else in the backseat? Dirty men and women – a mining town, after all – came out of a bus and were weighed with sorrow, not fatigue. A cheek or two were cried clean. The car left through the back of the small wall. Another forest, this one with white roses woven in wreaths around the trees. The flowers were fat, and the dew looked like pearls on the smooth petals.

That exquisite favor from nature extended to but halted at the manor that stood inside a higher wall. A strange mix of new, polished materials and old architecture. The smoke that had dissipated but never left the town was not here, even in spirit. If she had her eyes with her, she would notice that every other bar in the gate was rusted, while its neighbor was coated in immaculate black, as the car took her onto the stone yard. A gaggle of people, house help, surely, with their white shirts exempt from the dark dress code she’d seen so far, flocked around her door. Some of the maids cooed upon seeing her face when the tallest, rather young authority in front opened for her. He promptly shushed them with a sharp look from his blue eyes and bid her come out. He explained to her how very welcome she was to Oleander Manor, and that his name was Nathan Brandston, at her call.

Her dress, laid out on the bed of the lived-in room somewhere in the bowels of the main house, was fitted perfectly to her. It was a pretty thing, in that it had colors on its flowers. Well made, intricate, light, and utterly inappropriate for the event. There were parts of it that were worn. Somebody had loved and left this article repeatedly, and it hung on her better for it. The invitation had specified she wear what was on the bed. The tone had been stern. The world was stern, with night overtaking the hour. This knowledge was a few minutes old in this room without pictures and windows.

Nathan Brandston knocked on her door and lead her deeper into the house. He was a kind fellow, handful of years passed her own age. His chit-chat was world class and his jokes, though staged, were well meaning. If she hadn’t noticed already, there was a hole where information about this event should be, the way he carried on.

The room was in the cellar, and it was a generous size considering its underground location. She saw the candles, a decadent display, wax the length of a person, standing on the floor, crowding the spaces that weren’t the carpet leading up to three rows of benches. Beyond the provided seats, glowering in the overflow of firelight, hung a body, wrapped in a hard dress, leather or plastic or both. In the garment, iron rings connected to iron chains that were attached to the far walls, and one chain stretching from her spine to the ceiling. She was posed floating, upward, but with a lingering hand down. Her vision was bound, a black, eyeless mask, and her mouth was covered with a guard that followed her face after having grown from the continuing neck of her restrictive garb. If not for that guard without holes on her lips and nose, she might have looked alive, still. Her hair was free. Nathan did not look disturbed by the transfixed human, the angel suspended on chain-link wings.

He sat below her hand, on his knees, a wave of flames built around one side of him, around them. The shadows on his face, licking at his ears, wagered an age between herself and the Brandston butler. “That is Sir Kvell, older brother of the late Lady Ansa.” Nathan whispered. “Your brother.” Kvell's eyes were stubbornly black, though salted with the surrounding wealth of candles. Not even his suit, which was a shadow trying to gossip about his lengthy build, was as dark as those eyes, staring up at the leather bound hand, and the woman that held it out. A few fangs of black hair pointed to his cheekbone, which was underlined by crying’s blush. His air was angry, the jaw pulsing, a boy’s rebellion, with a broken posture. A delicate gargoyle, loved by the chisel. Kvell hadn’t known many things like this loss.

“Go to him. Say something to him.” Nathan begged her, touched her shoulder for it. “He is almost dead from grief. They were close.”
« Last Edit: February 23, 2017, 09:20:08 pm by Verse »

VenomousEve

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Re: Ash and Roar
« Reply #1 on: June 10, 2016, 06:01:41 pm »
Ophelia was tense in the back seat of the car, which had been sent for her, and kept her hands folded tautly across her lap. She had never seen the towns they passed through, nor the forest, though she’d grown up nearby. St. Emiliani’s Home for Children was a quiet and insular place. She had never traveled far from its Victorian walls. Under other circumstances, she might have found this trip exciting.

The buildings crawled past her window in a funeral procession. She was to be in mourning for a girl she’d never met. The call had been strange, accompanied by a formal letter some days later. The family she’d not known had lost someone dear. It would be a small light in this dark time for her to return home. As if she’d elected to leave. Perhaps, by being born second of twins, she had been responsible. These little towns were odd, with old superstitions. The voice on the other end of the line had been muted, but not unkind.

The letter had been stranger than the call. Ophelia had not known funerals to have so many rules. But, then, she had not been to many funerals. She glanced at her bag in the seat next to her, where the letter was tucked in an outer pocket. There was a room waiting for her when she arrived at the family manor. A wealthy family, it seemed. She was to leave her personal items with the staff that met her at the door. She was to wear the clothes left out for her.

Ophelia stared out the window of the car, as they passed into the mining town she’d been born in, and tried to look passive. There were odd stares, from those who were willing to stare, like they had seen a ghost. She had not known her sister further than the mirror in her room at the orphanage. Big dark eyes, the color of deep red ocher, fringed with long dark lashes. A small, spritely nose. Soft brows. Hair like cold rose gold, blushing pink beneath the sun. She had been told by one of the Sisters at St. Emiliani’s that the color had been her mother’s.

The roses were less unnerving than the townspeople, as they drove into the forest. Lovely, but stifling as well. She supposed it might have just been her nerves, but the still sweetness of the woods seemed a little eerie. The trip through was longer than she had expected. Ophelia wondered if the manor even qualified as part of the town proper, sitting so deep behind the trees. But, when the car pulled to a stop, past the mottled gate, she was a little glad for it as she stepped out. The air tasted more like pine than soot and the sky above the sprawling home was a magnificent and optimistic blue.

She tried on a smile for Mr. Brandston, who didn’t seem much older than herself, and reached back into the car to grab her bag. She remembered the letter. After a moment’s hesitation, she offered it to him. “I was sent a letter. It said to leave my things with you. Quite specific. Thank you for your care.” Ophelia said. She’d been raised to be polite and obedient. The Sisters of St. Emiliani’s Home for Children were strict, but fair, and served as a gaggle of chastising mothers where the children had none.

Ophelia followed Nathan Brandston to the room, grateful for his conversation in the unfamiliar home. She tried to picture it as a place she might have grown up in, but found her imagination was paper thin in that regard. When he left her at the door, she felt it was lonely. The bedroom was pretty, decorated with a taste for soft luxuries and a feminine pallet. There was a small desk with a book and a porcelain cup of pens. A vanity, cluttered with delicate glass bottles. The bed was large, with a canopy of thick fabric that hung heavy over the four white posts. There were large iron rings bolted into the posts at the headboard, which struck her as out of place, but she was quickly distracted by the garment that had been laid out for her.

Ophelia ran her fingers over the material curiously. It was well worn, but of a better quality than any clothes she’d worn. It didn’t seem like the sort of thing to wear to a funeral, but the letter had been particular about the rules of her attendance. In truth, she hadn’t been sure she ought to come at all. The letter had been so odd and the woman that had died was littler more than a name to her.

Sister Nettie had insisted on it, though. Ophelia was past the age that required her to stay at the orphanage and was rapidly nearing the age she would be decidedly not allowed to stay. The Home was a charity with too many mouths to feed, at the end of the day. Sister Nettie had said meeting her family might be a chance at a bright new future. Ophelia had not thought joining the Sisters, herself, would have been such a terrible future. She had taken Sister Nettie’s advice, mostly because she disliked disappointing the woman and her sad grey eyes.

She slipped into the frock, folding her own clothes neatly on the bed. It fit her as if it had been tailored for her. Ophelia shivered a little. Was it her sister’s dress, then? She was grateful when Mr. Brandston knocked on the door to fetch her. She followed him quickly from the room. With his pleasant chatting, she hardly noticed how deep into the Manor they had gone. It was only when they reached a heavy door, the sort used rather specifically for cellars, that she gave the man an unsure expression.

He must not have noticed, or chosen not to pay any mind, and led her into the room. The candlelight blossomed the strawberry hue of her flaxen hair. She stood dumbly, taken aback by the room first and then, more so, by the ghastly angel. Ophelia was sure she had been led into a ritual, not a funeral, and searched with panicked eyes for some sort of explanation from the butler. Nathan identified the other man in the room, and it made her pale. Brother. She glanced at the man, with his dark hair and darker eyes, and realized she looked significantly more akin to the leather-bound corpse, whose unbound hair fell just shy of her shoulders in the same blush hues as her own.

There was urgency in Nathan’s voice that confused her, and a creeping fear in her chest said she ought to turn and run from the room. This was no normal family, whether it was hers by blood or not. The butler’s hand on her shoulder set her in motion toward Sir Kvell, instead.

“Sir Kvell?” Ophelia’s voice came wavering and weak when she neared, which made her flush in some frustration. It was only fair that she’d been thrown so far off balance, though, standing there in a dead woman’s dress like a summoned phantom at a witch’s conjuring. The candles flickered and danced with her resolve. “I’m Ophelia. Your… other sister. Or so I’m told.” She managed, clasping her hands tight before her, as if in prayer. Perhaps she was. This man didn’t seem like a brother. She tried to think of something polite to say, regardless. “I’m very sorry for your loss.”

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Re: Ash and Roar
« Reply #2 on: June 10, 2016, 11:53:04 pm »
Kvell had been asking for mercy from the dark seraph. The staff had been allowed to come and go on the benches behind him. He'd not taken food. The pretty hands were in his lap, filled with prayers he'd whispered into them when they were clutched to his lips. It was clear that the black hair had been brushed back at some point. Fits had it a nest now, the black-bird feathers making jagged statements agains his features. The first button underneath the bowtie was ivory, and it was freed now. Somewhere in his sadness, Nathan had come to undo it for his comfort.

Kvell didn't move when she attached his title to his name. He kept quivering eyes at Ansa, who reached back, eternally. The ring finger curled and then relaxed when Ophelia presented herself. Still, most of him retained that apathetic stoic. But his head whipped to see her when she said she was sorry. Purple skin benath those coal eyes. Beautiful distress. He had an inhierited pretty, a handsome that wouldn't waver even after days of greif. Perhpas he was so victorian that his pulling qualities were enhanced by his darkness. Back when this bloodline had been drawn, the ugly founders had set out to gather beauty to go with their wealth. It clung to his bones to prove itself.

And that storm of symmetry and nobel looked her over, weighing her and tieing her words to her lips. "Sorry?" he asked, and all the fingers curled on his thighs. There was life dancing in the eyes now, but it was not warming vivacity. A spine of shadows on his straight nose, pale lips shrinking into a tight, round bundle. He would seem towering, even on his knees when he wore this cadence. His back was straight again. Up and down he examined her dress. The purple was joined by a red on him. "Then why did you do it!" a drowning hiss from that hard set mouth. The servants shifted. He stood. The servants grew into the floor.

Only Nathan had air to gasp when Kvell struck her, rapping exstended fingers and two knuckles over her cheekbone. The sound and the arch of the offending arm upset the candles on Ophelias side. He was breathing hard, looking down at her, the digits he'd lifted loosing thier tension as the limb lost its height. Soon it hung by his side. "Why did you leave me?" he asked, the madness flickering with awareness of itself over his features. His voice was a bit dry. He'd not spoken this much for a long time. Kvell looked from Ophelia to the posed Ansa a handfull of times until it made him sick.

He shoved the living sister onto a bench behind her. A conflicted act, as though he'd charged the assult with more power than he allowed himself to release. And then he stomped out, snuffing lights with his turbulence. Nathan moved, the wall of maids moved. And then they were all left in his silence. One maid cried quietly and Nathan hurried to Ophelia. There was condolocence in his eyes as he stood before her, for what had just happened, and for her situation. He did not have the chance to speak before Kvell stomped into the room again.

His stride was furious, and he killed more lights with it. Nathan steped back, almost into the ocean of lights underneath Ansa, to give the brother room. It was clear that the butler would not stand between the master and whatever hardship he'd brought for Ophelia this time.

When the fuming, greif-stricken reached her again, he seemed unable to move closer than a few feet to her, mouth larger now, drinking in the air that the flames did not ingest. The hands underneath the ends of the black sleeves were dangerously dense. Pampered, smooth bricks. The unlookers shook their heads, wishing for some kind of mercy for the poor Ophelia.

Kvell didn't hit her again. Kvell folded his legs until his knees touched the floor by her feet. He dropped his head in her lap, nuzzling high, where her stomach ended and her hips began, where she'd divide if her legs weren't gathered. He cried into Ansa's dress and held on to it. "You have to." he said against her privacy. Have to be her. Have to pretend. Have to help me.

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Re: Ash and Roar
« Reply #3 on: June 11, 2016, 05:07:16 am »
Ophelia did not expect the expression she received. Naïve, because grief was unsparing and that darkly aristocratic face was not excused from its bruises. She flinched when he threw the apology back at her, stumbling over what she could possibly have said instead, in her head. Ophelia did not know this man. She couldn’t have known what she’d done wrong, in existing before him.

If his eyes had not been quite so frightening, she might have noticed some synchrony in their cheekbones and the color of their skin. The shape of their lips and the cut of their jaws. A brother, suggested by those genetic niceties. She took a step back, because agonized beauty was more frightening than anything terrible. Beautiful things in pain sat poorly with the heart. A little deer, caught in the glower of a wolf rabid in mourning. “Do—“ she began to inquire, bewildered by the flaring wrath. Had she not been told to come to this place? The atmosphere was somewhat convincing.

When he hit her, the sound cracked in the hanging quiet. Her face, thrown to the side under the blow, carried enough momentum to set her down on her knees. She had already been teetering, caught on the edge of fleeing. She blinked back large tears from the sting, and scrambled backward from him. Ophelia was quick to be back on her feet, but the anguished brother was equally quick to push her back down. This time, at least, she was thrown onto a bench. Pretty lips formed a confused ring. She’d never left him. She’d never met him. The wide copper stare caught view of the chained angel behind Kvell and she understood. This face, then. He knew it, even if she hadn’t. Ophelia felt a hard knot twist in the pit of her stomach.

Ophelia trembled, collapsing against the back of the bench when he stormed out. She was blinking, stunned, when Nathan came to her. It would have been a small relief, if she’d had time to process it. He was away from her as quickly as he’d come. Kvell’s whirling departure, and reentrance, had snuffed all but the candles flickering beneath the ascending body. If the effect had been concerning, before, it was a macabre sort of magic now. Would the Lady Ansa have been horrified by the treatment of her body and funeral rites? Ophelia had to hope, because the alternative seemed infinitely worse.

She stared at him, hands clutched before her heart, scarcely willing to breathe. She felt an apology forming at the back of her throat, because she had been taught to believe this kind of behavior must only be in response to some grave iniquity. Her face, then, the angel’s face, was a sin. Ophelia choked it back, because he had hit her for those words but moments before.

When he dropped before her, it was as if she’d been slapped again with the way she jumped. A draft through the room whispered through Ansa’s chains. Ophelia gave a little mewl of protest as Kvell sought the warmth of her lap, but didn’t dare move. Her heart beat heavily in her chest, this unpredictable man so suddenly close. His hands balled the fabric of the dress that was more familiar to him than it was to her. She felt dirty for wearing it and, at once, violated. She’d not asked to be fashioned into a phantom.

For all of the awfulness of that room and the body, which swayed gently on the uppermost chain, and the man, who had faulted her with sins of the sister, Ophelia was a compassionate soul. Sister Nettie had been so excited on her behalf. A family. Parents deceased, but siblings still surviving. Perhaps some aunts and uncles that didn’t live in town. A family. A family. Ophelia hadn’t understood the taste of those words in her mouth. She’d prayed for one, as a child, and then she’d grown up. But Sister Nettie’s smile had been so bright. It had almost reached her sad storm eyes. Ophelia thought about Sister Nettie when she heard Kvell begin to sob into her lap.

He said something, which she didn’t understand, half-muffled against the dress and cryptic beyond that. It made the knot in her stomach twist again, because she was frightened of what it might mean and of what his temper would say if she didn’t understand. Sister Nettie said she should be happy for a brother. Happy for a sister, too, even if that sister was dead. The bister eyes stared at Ansa’s flickering silhouette.

“I don’t know what I have to do.” She said at last. A small voice, tentative and drawn against the angry red that still smarted on her cheek. She could feel the eyes of the staff on her. “You’re supposed to be my brother.” She could be gentle for those words, even if her heart didn’t know them. “What am I supposed to do?” Ophelia asked. An offer, as if to a child.

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Re: Ash and Roar
« Reply #4 on: June 11, 2016, 05:34:36 pm »
She'd not taken the hand the way Ansa would. Ophelia had been pretty though, on her knee, and given him lovely presents with the little violence he'd supplied before he left. Though he didn't turn them over in his mind now, he'd sample them later. Now every sob marked another wave of grief, and such tidals don't allow small, silver details. He was existing in broad traces of a steady brush, trying to soak its dark blood into his strung out soul. So he held on to that dress, the way it had held on to Ansa.

When he looked up, there was another thing alongside the madness in the night time marbles. Some of this new element was want for forgiveness, perhaps a lure, but most of it was insistence. It could leave Ophelia wondering, with his head below hers, if this was the view the bound and hanging angel was seeing. A film of clarity, also, to sharpen the edge between the black and the sclera. He knew she wasn't Ansa, then, and that it was important he not forget for a moment.

"I want--" but it was too modest. His hands on her waist, as though readying to shake her. "You will stay." he said. He could not be so fallen that he wholly believed she was the returning soul of the lady. It was not Nathan who had assembled the letter and drawn out the plan for her to come. It had been these shambles before her, of course. Anger, again, but without words or action, forbidding her to refuse. "I'll show you the manor, I'll give you this home to share." His hand up, because he couldn't leave Ansa's memory be any longer. First a light pinch on her cheekbones, more his dead sister's than his, and then his thumb on her upper lip. Here, Ophelia might even be prettier, because the upper lip is layered with suffering, and Ansa had only known his.

He was a bit lost then, without more to say. She couldn't be some throw away thing that he enjoyed and then burnt in various ways. A line that kept a bit of the life that had died to him. But she wasn't that life and that death, in essence. Not yet, so he couldn't knead with his will and wait for beautiful results. Kvell wasn't a hiding man, not in this manner, anyway, so he looked vulnerable at first as his breath calmed. Wasn't he kneeling already, again, and this time by her feet? A moment, to wait her for her heart to asses the offer.

And then he got up, behemoth, still inside what she might consider her space. He'd decided what her answer was. The lights flickered with sympathy and there was resignation in the dropped shoulders of the maids and in Nathan's lowered chin. It was Kvell's turn to extend a hand down to her. His gesture was far more demanding than the comforting and benevolent Ansa, who quietly watched them, her flight still lit by the candles he hadn't slayed. "Come. Welcome."

And he would let her hold his hand all the way over the carpet of this morbid spectacle, long wax lining their path, black thread still birthing tall smoke here and there. Outside the doors, he would lock his hands behind his back, and she would follow to the room she already knew. Further behind, the collection of servants would stalk, and then thin out as each person would turn off at different corridors, until Ophelia would be alone with him when he opened the door for her.

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Re: Ash and Roar
« Reply #5 on: June 12, 2016, 06:21:34 pm »
Ophelia was a shell and Kvell was a tide of dark water, rising to sweep her along with his plans. She was told, not asked, she would stay. See the place. Share the home. He didn’t let her answer her own conscience, let alone him. Ophelia took his hand because she was afraid not to. To be left here seemed worse than to follow him. Ansa was too looming to stay. Had this been a funeral at all? Part of her felt as if it had simply been a transference of herself to Kvell’s keeping, witnessed by the sister he mourned. That would make this all a trick, in some fashion.

She followed him mutely from the room, the serving staff filing out behind her also. Ophelia wondered, if she’d not taken his hand, if she would have been left all alone in the room with her mirror death. It was not a consideration she particularly appreciated. She was no more pleased by the dwindling numbers accompanying them down the hall, though. When Nathan left them, she felt herself begin to drag her feet. The butler had seemed some fashion of reliable, at least.

“Thank you,” she said to Kvell when he opened the door, passing meekly into the room she now understood must have been Ansa’s.

Her sleep, that night, was troubled. Images of Ansa, the dark angel, stalked her through her dreams and whispered cruel things about what it was to die. Nathan the butler appeared to spirit her away from the haunting, but his face fell away when she took his hand and she was met instead with Kvell’s severely beautiful face and impossibly dark eyes. He opened his mouth to speak, and his teeth were sharp and she heard the howling of wild animals.

--

Morning came slowly, the windowless room providing little to indicate she should wake. When her body finally released her from her foggy and disturbing dreams, her limbs felt heavy. A slow sigh when she opened her eyes. Yesterday had not been part of her bizarre dream, it seemed, as she stared up at the posts of Ansa’s bed. She had slept in the dress.

Ophelia slipped from the bed and went to the vanity, pushing at her tangle of long hair as she peered in the mirror. Had her sister done the same, at some point not so long ago? She took the ends of her hair in one hand and held them up behind her to mimic the length of Ansa’s tresses as she’d seen them yesterday. Her expression was tired, from her restless sleep. She’d not seen Ansa’s face. Ophelia grimaced and let go of her hair. She’d done something morbid. To the desk, then.

Her hand hovered over the book sitting there. A journal of some sort, it was apparent. Was it prying too much to look inside? The dead didn’t care, but would Kvell if he knew? She opened it anyway.

There are shadows all the time, now. They keep me up late at night and I don’t know why. I hear the maids murmur outside my room and say things like ‘she’s gotten worse’ and I know they think I’m making it up. I’m not, though. Mom and Dad stopped sending me to the hospital because the shadows never got any better. Pills don’t shut them up, either. I don’t understand why they keep trying to blame this on my mind. Kvell doesn’t judge me, at least.

He understands me and he doesn’t blame me when I get upset. Sometimes, I just can’t take it. There’s too much yelling and I feel like all those flickering shapes are going to close in and it makes me panic. Kvell knows how to make me feel better, though. I think pain bring clarity. I need to feel like I’m dying. Or that someone is dying. The help staff give us looks when they think we aren’t looking. They won’t say anything because Mom and Dad never did. But Mom and Dad never said much of anything. I wonder if they regretted keeping me, instead of the other one. I wonder if the other one is alive. Maybe she sees the shadows too. Maybe she hears them. Maybe she got to die.

I’d like to be nameless. I’d like to not exist. Kvell would be mad at me, though. He gets so mad at me when I say things like that. I get mad at him too.


Ophelia shut the book quickly and marched back over to the bed. She shouldn’t have read it. She knelt at the bed to pray. This place was wrong. Sister Nettie was wrong. She shouldn’t have come. How had Ansa died? Had it been by her own hand, then? Or Kvell’s? Ophelia shuddered and squeezed her palms tighter together. She prayed that she could find the courage to say she was leaving, today. Prayed that she could forget Ansa’s body swaying on those chains. Prayed for Ansa’s soul. She prayed until she was sure she’d been forgotten in the room.

She had expected that someone would come. Ophelia inhaled sharply and decided to change, at least. Maybe she could find the way out on her own and she’d not have to face whatever expression Kvell had for her. Sad or angry. Both were a bit frightening on his face. Brother or not, she’d not known this man. She couldn’t possibly be expected to endure this strange arrangement simply because it suited him.

Ophelia realized her clothes from the day before had been taken away. Someone had come while she’d been at the funeral, then. Or while she’d been sleeping. She didn’t remember seeing them when she had come back to the room, but she hadn’t really been looking either. A large wardrobe across from the left side of the bed invited her to look inside. Everything was soft and sweet. It wasn’t what she would have pictured, from the roiling dark that had apparently brewed in Ansa’s mind. But then, there was the delicate thing she was already wearing.

She grabbed a dress at random; it seemed Ansa had owned nothing but, and a couple of blouses and skirts. Ophelia shrugged into the dress with her back to the vanity. She didn’t want to see herself in Ansa’s clothes, really. It was a little ivory sheath of satin that slipped no further than her mid-thigh, with lace cap sleeves and a blue satin ribbon that tied at the small of her waist. Doll clothes cut for a woman’s body. Ophelia thought it seemed like an impractical garment, even more so than the billowy dress from the day before. Perhaps Ansa didn’t go out much. She found a brush on the nightstand and plaited her hair before she went to the door.

Ophelia wasn’t precisely sure what she’d expected, but she felt some sinking fear realized in her when the handle would not budge. It had been locked from the outside. A peculiar feature for a bedroom at all. She wiggled the handle again with some ill-placed hope. Clearly, she would not be going anywhere until she was sent for.     

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Re: Ash and Roar
« Reply #6 on: June 12, 2016, 10:27:54 pm »
The rooster went along the corridor. The mask was black, lambskin, as most of the others. Below the upper beak, his human face and mouth. In the beginning, on days like these, it had been a cowl, but The Lady had requested Nathan's disguise be remade so he could at least decide on his hair. Today he'd brushed it back with oils to look proper, despite the ominous cover for his eyes, forehead and cheekbones, hoping to comfort Ophelia, if just a little. For Ansa, when she'd gotten used to it, he'd spike it on top.

He walked by a bear and a goat, complete with leather horns, on his way to her room. Those masks were not allowed to speak, so there was nothing human peeking out from their design. Kvell had not said to forgo knocking, so the butler took that liberty, thrice, before turning the latch and presenting himself into the room. His breath stayed in his esophagus for a short while when he saw her in that white ensemble. Ansa's mirror image, with a new posture. What a sweet thing. What madness, here. Hand on his chest and a bow. He was not to mention the masks, even if she asked.

"Sir Kvell wants you." he said as softly as he could while still being perfectly clear. The girl would follow, of course, because he was ordered to make sure she did. Nathan tried to read her pace, so they could take the corridor in her tempo, but he could do little to shield her from the rest of the staff, running about with their tasks, also dressed finely, but disguised darkly. "I hope you slept as well as one can, in a new place." he offered, but it was small, as they passed a snake with sharp brows. He hated that mask, even if he liked conversing with that keeper that had been tasked to wear it.

There were windows in the dancing hall, great windows, displaying morning and a view of the garden. The garden had a tall a labyrinth, in its center, its green walls speckled with blue roses. It was a trick, but Kvell kept them dyed in consistent cycles. They would be blue for the rest of their lives, despite the ivory that was their birthright. The hall was splendid, its size emphasized by the laid out table in the middle. It was not custom or etiquette to take food in the center of the floor. The Oleander Manor was not a place of outside traditions. The sunlight alone, at this hour, was enough to light the room, but not without long shadows. On of those dark shapes cut the table in half, right where the flower arrangement was.

The table was large for two people. A flock of leather birds bowed and scattered perfectly to let Nathan and Ophelia pass as she was lead to the feast. Kvell wore a red shirt and tie underneath the black jacket, over the black pants. Blackened coal cut through with fire. The eyes were still marble, but some of the purple had gone from below. The hair was no longer a nest. Nathan stopped and let her walk by herself. If she made a motion of attachment or retreat back toward the butler, the beautiful Oleander son would disapprove. But he would still hold out the chair for her.

The siblings would be sharing a corner of the table, her side letting her see the garden. It was an unorthodox setting, but it allowed closeness. On the end farthest from that corner were two chairs with sheets over their backs. "I don't know your tastes." he said, and would slide her chair in for her before taking his own seat. The porcelain and glass was exquisite, new, and hers was laid out like his. Ophelia would notice soon that she'd gotten none of the silver that accompanied the plates and bowls on his side. He started putting food on her plate. If there was a theme to the mixture of vegetables, breads and eggs, it would have been color. He poured her water and ripped white petals off the rose that garnished the fowl, and left the pale notes floating in the glass.

"I'm sorry I didn't come to see you last night." he said as he filled his own plate. "Tonight, maybe." These words were more to himself, she sound of resolution. Kvell went about cutting a slice of meat for her, and stabbing it deftly with some of the eggs as he held it up for her mouth. The food would not go away until it was accepted. The act wasn't an effort. He'd done this many times. The strangeness of it did not even register with the lord, but one of the birds, in the distance, tilted her head out of worry.

"I would like to discuss your stay here." he would go on, feeding himself twice before offering her a strawberry on the fork, hand underneath it, so it wouldn't bleed onto the white dress. "I propose forever." It did bleed, on his ring finger without a ring. Strawberry blood looked stark on his white digit. His eyes studied her expression before he let out a sigh, and afforded a quick look toward the silent rooster. "But I will agree to a trial of thirty days from today." He took another bite. The ham, the cucumber. A piece of lanky stone eating meat and greens - it might as well have been jest. "Would it be acceptable to you?" He ate more, tending to his plate as an obvious escape. There was blood on his teeth when he looked up again, knife and fork resting on the table. "I would consider it a mercy." A flick of a fast tongue, and the enamel rows were pristine again.

From this way, half his features were lit with what was coming through the windows. The skin was almost turned to nothing, leaving that eye floating below the severe eyebrow. A beautiful, impossible thing, if not for the shadow on the remaining half of his features. The white of that shaded eye was the only visible point, there. It could have been her possibilities with the terms he'd given; wondrous riches, and abyss.

VenomousEve

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Re: Ash and Roar
« Reply #7 on: June 13, 2016, 11:25:25 pm »
As if her rattling at the doorknob had summoned him, the butler arrived with a rap on the wall. She stepped back as he let himself in, giving a little start when she saw the strange beaked mask. Ophelia was in some small way relieved when she realized it was Nathan dressed oddly, but her posture implied she had not been put fully at ease. “Why are you wearing that mask?” she asked him, following him from the room. She was barefoot, because her own shoes had been taken and she had found not a single pair in Ansa’s things.

He didn’t answer, striking up morning pleasantries instead. Ophelia didn’t have an exceptionally good reason to trust the butler, but his manner was more inviting than anything else in the Manor. That, and her own honest nature, compelled her to speak freely. “No, I didn’t, honestly.” She said. “I had a lot of nightmares. The funeral yesterday, it was…” Ophelia trailed off then. Honesty did not require poor manners and she suspected any comment on Ansa strung up might be taken as such.

“It’s a very nice room, though. The bed was very comfortable.” She said, instead. Ophelia shied away from the masks which frightened her, though she did make an effort to keep her steps straight. Superficially, she understood the faces from the night before must certainly be behind the masks. Somehow, that didn’t make her feel much better.

The dancing hall was almost as intimidating as Kvell, himself. When Nathan stopped, she stopped as well, but the expression on her face was distinctly confusion. There were formalities here that she hadn’t learned at the orphanage. Ophelia suspected she would not have learned them in an etiquette book, either, but that might simply have been her own suspicions. It wasn’t a mentality she could be blamed for, with all of the masked servants flitting so and whispering thus.

When she realized Kvell was expecting she come, she was hasty, and tripped over herself as she tried to make up for her error. Her stumble sounded extraordinarily loud in the otherwise silent hall. She was blushing profusely for the clumsiness, and thanked Kvell in a rushed breath when she took her seat.

The man of the manor did not seem any more inviting, this morning, but a good deal more composed. That, alone, took some edge of tension out of her shoulders. Perhaps she had expected to be scolded. Ophelia, it seemed, was a more impressionable soul than her departed sister. But the orphaned twin had been raised in a place where right behavior was expected from each unto another and harsh behavior was only in response to error. She had the sweetness of a wild thing that had not yet encountered human harshness. That sort of naivety would have frustrated Ansa.

“Thank you for your effort.” She said, though she could have guessed Kvell had not personally prepared any of the food. Ophelia meant to protest then, when he tried to serve her, but was distracted by the lack of silverware at her place. That dilemma puzzled her. She hoped to eat, in part because she hungry and in part because she had been taught it was rude to refuse a generous meal. However, she didn’t wish to ask for utensils. Somehow, it seemed as if that would be wrong of her. The table had been laid so meticulously that an oversight struck her as unlikely. Besides, if it was, she wondered what sort of punishment the absentminded servant responsible might encounter. She bit down on her tongue, instead.

“Oh. It’s alright. I’m sure you had a lot of other things on your mind.” She said, when he apologized. Tonight, he said. Which meant he was not intending that she leave, yet. Ophelia paled a bit. She realized, then, that he was holding the food out for her to take and that the absence of silverware had not been a mistake at all. He did it like she should find it normal, which made it more uncomfortable. Had Ansa taken food from her—their brother like this? Ansa’s journal had made it seem as if they had been quite close. Perhaps it had been comforting to her. Ophelia did not find this comforting.

She glanced around the room and was not met by a single of the staff. Reluctantly, she took the food. He wanted her to stay. Ophelia caught the look in Nathan’s direction and wondered if the butler had spoken on her behalf. He understood, then, that this whole place was strange. That Kvell was strange and the Manor was strange and the very invitation had been strange. She didn’t need to even begin considering the dark angel ascension that had serviced as a funeral, yesterday.

If Nathan had argued for her, then thirty days was a gift. She took the strawberry slowly. A mercy he said, with a bloody mouth. It was confirmed then. Ophelia wondered if she ought to tell him that it was probably illegal to compel her to stay like this. She was not so bold. “It is—“ she found herself momentarily unable to finish her statement. Something akin to locking her own shackles, she feared. Did Kvell keep promises, she wondered. Did this count as a promise? “It is acceptable.” She murmured. Did he know he was frightening? Had Ansa found him so?

She took the rest of her meal in relative silence and, by the end, she was not so perturbed by taking her food assisted. It was peculiar, still, but his bearing suggested that her predicament could be so very much worse. Ophelia thought she ought to try her best, too, given that she had now agreed to this with her own mouth. “How are you feeling today, Sir?” she asked. Perhaps she should have called him Kvell, but he was barely a brother in name. She couldn’t have known that Ansa would use that title in other tones. Sometimes cruel, sometimes breathless. Always, though, when her episodes were at their worst. The reckless times.

“If I’m going to stay here for a while, could I maybe see the rest of the Manor today? It’s beautiful, from the outside. I haven’t gotten to see much from within.” She suggested, as well. A faint optimism in her voice. Perhaps her sweetness was more like a dog’s. That would have frustrated Ansa even more.   

Verse

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Re: Ash and Roar
« Reply #8 on: June 14, 2016, 07:37:34 pm »
Kvell had certainly not made any of the food himself. That implication, him working the pots and hotplates while the kitchen staff looked on or assisted, was tickling but not as amusing to him as the fade on her cheeks and below her eyes when he provided her first bite all the way to her lips. He kept it steady for her, as she contemplated what to do next. Her puzzlement was eloquent and honest. It was a delicate silence that padded her decision of eating by his hand. It was rewarding, he discovered, to have her try it. In many ways, she could not be Ansa, even if she would have to be. He made sure to taste the fork himself, when she’d put some of herself on it. If he was aware of the intimacy of that gesture, he did not give that away.

He tasted the strawberry blood, as well, sucking the belly of that finger clean while his eyes studied her as she answered him about the parameters of her stay. A smile on him, the short kind that might still hold some important thoughts, the kind that ended even-toned haggling and accompanied a handshake. There were other smiles for her, increasingly warmer, as the act of bringing food to her became lighter. Eventually they found their rhythm. He learned the right size for her bites and how she preferred he slide the utensils out of her closed petals, and she learned to read when he intended to give her more to eat. They became rather efficient, though it wasn’t cerebral, yet.

“Better than can be expected.” He answered her and looked down into the sweet porridge, licking some off the spoon that had just been with her. “You’re here.” A fact, like someone sick might speak of medicine. It seemed though, someone who didn’t shy from the bitterness of necessary treatment. “Lady.” He added to tease. A grin, a glee, a little unsettling. She could call him what she wanted, because she would call him something honest, soon. “I suppose I feel a bit excited about you.” Have you ever gotten yourself a great gift without knowing if it’s what you want? The light passed the center line of his face, making it noticeably more illustrious than abyssal. He chewed on a slice of pear, and the end of his lit jaw made a beard of claws with the shadows between the subtle muscles there.

Their mother’s eyelashes spread a bit when Ophelia broke the silence again. Another bit of the buttery porridge had been on its way to her mouth when she spoke. He took it back for himself and said “Of course.” with honey on the corner of his mouth before his tongue raked that gold inside. He wore a lighter heart and gestured toward the door, wrist flicking and the power of the motion gathering at his fingertips. Regal manners learnt over a physically strong base. “We can go around and you can discover your… our…“ he had to suck that sweetened lip then, to think of the right thing to say. His tall neck bent slightly. It was flawed, vulnerable. “discover Oleander.” The nod meant he was satisfied, and his composure returned, lip popping out. The way he turned, the shadow that wasn’t lemonade from the window swallow the smile all the way to cut the remaining black iris in half, and he was back to his usual form. “And then we will go back to your room, and draw out the contract.” His head tilted with friendliness that was really just wickedness. “For your stay here.”

“Sir.” Nathan said from where he stood. A strong, practiced protest. It was perfect, in that what was essentially a bark sounded respectful, hopeful to tug at the better nature of the man she was having a meal with. If she turned to the butler, she would see his chest out, and it would make him look almost formidable in the mask. The Sir answered with a hand, nails to the ceiling, palm toward the rooster. Also practiced. I hereby decapitate your protest, despite what validity you might think it has. The rooster kept an incredible tension in his shoulders, but relaxed his chest. Kvell would ask for her attention back with a sweet, closed smile.

When they were done he moved his chair around the corner, the nearness sure to have her sit up straight, or even retreat into the back of her own seat. He dabbed her lips with a napkin her side had not been provided with either. It wasn’t rough, and their eyes didn’t meet, as his attention was on getting her clean, as though she wasn’t already. When he took her hand, stood them up, and walked by the rooster, Nathan did not follow immediately. A little rebellion stemming from a great amount of anger. He would not have stricken her as someone who would oppose Kvell. A greater oddness, though, might be that Kvell did not chastise Nathan for it. Perhaps there were things the Oleander son respected, after all. Eventually the butler had to come along, when the pair had almost traveled the entirety of the room without him. Surely it would leave Ophelia wondering what was so upsetting with the contract that would make a loyal rooster caw, and a respectful master persist.

“You have seen the welcoming hall, but some of its charm might have been lost in the haste, yesterday.” Kvell said, his grip on her hand loosening somewhat, leaving it up to her whether she wanted to apply her own pressure to keep the contact, or walk at her own pace, on her own two naked feet. “How about we make that our goal? Father and mother were forced to boast in their position, and it is of course important to start big for the guests, so the hall will worth it, architecturally.” The walls on their way were barren. On certain places there were nails still where pictures had hung. Kvell did not mention them. “When you’re out, you are of course allowed to go wherever you want.” When she was not locked in her room, he meant. “But don’t go into the labyrinth in the garden without me. It is a special place. I’d like to show you myself.” A request from Kvell had the sound of an order.

The kitchen was on their way. It was well lit, and accommodated a sleuth of culinary crafts. He would tell her he prided himself in feeding the guests, gastronomic art a tradition in the family. The large space would be mostly unused, though, and the people tending to the few active stations underlined that. “If you’re tired or frustrated or hurt, and you will be, you can order anything from here.” He said. He gave no sign of understanding how ominous that sounded. “I pick the dessert makers myself.” Blood tooth, sweet tooth.

For her pleasure, as they walked, there would be two private tea rooms, one with traditional porcelain and one with minimalistic designs, glass, steel, mostly. A gym, and following in the modern vein, a white room with black entertainment apparatuses, screens, projectors. Before they reached the welcoming, open hall, that would have twin, dividing staircases to the upper parts of Oleander Manor, there was a big room for sitting and taking visitors. It was important to continue dazzling the guests after the hall, he said. There was a green, faded theme here.

“It’s a bit classical.” He said, brushing fingers against a wall with the patterned paper. He turned around and let the wall support him, allowing her free reign, if she wished, as he had in the other rooms. “I saw this room often. They liked to show me off. I never really cared for the design, this time around. At one point it was blue, and that’s how I think it should have always been.” A small disappearance into that memory. Absently he touched one of the upside down water glasses on a tray on a table by his wall. He put the glass on its side. The edge of the tray stopped it from becoming glitter on the floor. With the image that he made, red and black to the oceanic backdrop, it wouldn’t be hard to know why a mother and father that aimed to show off would request their offspring be with them, turning over glasses. He pushed himself off the wall with a flick of his shoulder blades, and nurtured that force to let him walk closer to her. Nathan hurried to take his place so he could put the glass back. “What is your favorite color, Ophelia?” Kvell asked. An invitation to a feather-light game of tag or chase, the way he followed her. “What is your favorite thing? And what is your favorite body part?” A playful spring in his legs, challenging her bare feet. The hard set of Nathan’s mouth, though, as he watched his master with the delicate guest, suggested he did not recognize this initiative to be the prelude to any laughing matter.

VenomousEve

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Re: Ash and Roar
« Reply #9 on: June 16, 2016, 02:31:50 pm »
Ophelia watched him taste the utensil and wondered if he felt she was his sister. He had known a face like hers, so perhaps it was an easier concept to grasp. For her part, Kvell was still a stranger with a last name she’d never been given. She did not comment on how familiarly he treated her. It seemed like an impolite thing to do. To notice was to admit she did not feel any of the same. If he were going to these lengths for her own comfort, it would be rude to question his hospitality.

They made it through the meal without incident, though Kvell had been careful in feeding her, such that she’d not have had a chance to mess her dress even if she’d been clumsier about taking her food. She was willing to please and he seemed quick to adapt to her own angles and needs.

She was unsure of what to make of the things he said. Lady, in jest, as if it had been funny that she had called him Sir. Excited, but she didn’t know why. He’d lost someone dear to him. Ophelia had expected her presence might be more hurtful than anything else. His manner yesterday had suggested as much. Maybe this was some form of denial? Whether that was to her benefit or not, Ophelia wasn’t sure. Certianly, if she had not had the security of a month’s long trial she would have been more concerned by it.

He sounded pleasant enough when he agreed to showing her the place. Discover Oleander. The place, her place, maybe. The name, her name, maybe. When he was being agreeable like this, despite the peculiar qualities of their meal together, she had to admit he was lovely. A dark prince out of one of those books the Sisters had confiscated from some of the girls in their teen years. Ophelia felt she could be objective about his looks, because she felt nothing toward him. She wondered if Ansa had found him beautiful or frightening. Or both.

“Contract?” Ophelia echoed. The way Nathan protested struck a chord with her, and she remembered clearly the haunting display that had been Kvell in unfettered grief and the faceless chained seraph. Her question was silenced with the same gesture that cut off Nathan. Exacting, the both of them. Kvell, perhaps, more so. She returned his smile, because there was no other choice presented. That friendly expression remained until he went to clean her pink lips and the corners relaxed even as the rest of her tensed and shrank back. He had hit her, before. She had not forgotten, regardless of where it sat in his own memories. As it was, if Kvell had bothered to look closely, he would have seen a soft purple shadow blossoming along the ridge of her cheekbone. Ophelia had always had delicate skin.

She was guided from the room when he had finished polishing her mouth to his standards. A curious, doe-eyed look for Nathan, when they passed the rooster, because she didn’t know if she needed his help. He had bothered speaking up, which meant she was not wrong to think mention of contracts was not trivial. Maybe Nathan was the hero in this story, then. A golden-haired, blue-eyed rooster to sweep her away from the dark prince Kvell. Neither man said a word when Nathan was slow to follow and Ophelia felt it was more foreboding than if Kvell had scolded the good servant for it. She let go of his hand as soon as his grip was light enough that she deemed it acceptable.

Ophelia was fairly happy to hear Kvell speak of more mundane things. Small details of his parents, her parents, and what memories of them were written into the very architecture of the manor. As they walked through the halls, Ophelia was keenly aware of the disparity between the Oleander son and herself. Wealth was not startling to him. She wondered if St. Emiliani’s would have been. “Sister Marta said something similar to all of us, when I was a child. That first impressions were the most important, so we should always smile no matter who we met.” Ophelia offered. “It’s nice that your house can do the same.” Would he wonder what sort of impression he’d left on her, yesterday?

She nodded obediently, when he told her not to go into the labyrinth without him. Ophelia had no intention to do that sort of thing in a place like this, because it seemed like the sort of scenario that begged to end unpleasantly. She didn’t say that she had very little intention to follow him into the labyrinth, either. Ophelia thought she might consider it if Nathan were there. It seemed the butler had very rapidly become her sense of a safety net.

In the same manner each phase of the tour seemed punctuated by some new and vaguely unsettling hint into Kvell’s life, the kitchen started nicely and ended such that her hand was on her bruising cheek as she rolled over what he had said. Tired and frustrated and hurt did not sound like anything she wanted. “I will be hurt?” she asked and Kvell did not answer her. Ansa would have laughed.

She was delighted by the tea rooms, particularly the one with porcelain cups, and asked if maybe they could take tea there during her stay. Ophelia had never formally taken tea, but the idea had always appealed to her. She enjoyed things that felt like tradition, on principle. The prospect of high tea was apparently enough to distract her from her earlier concerns. It was, in fact, a nice enough distraction that the rest of their walk was actually enjoyable to her. Kvell might have noticed her better mood in the way she changed her pace so that she walked side by side with him and let the measured space she’d been keeping between them dwindle just a little.

It was a bit like Ansa, that way. Ansa, who had days darker than Ophelia could likely imagine, still beamed like a sunny child when given pretty things to hold. Many of the tea sets were, in fact, selected by or for Ansa. Many of the broken china cups, shattered violently on the floor and swept away by hasty maids, had also been destroyed by or for Ansa.

In the sitting room, Ophelia was prepared to listen to Kvell reminisce. He seemed willing, as well, at first. When he looked this little bit dreamy, it made her want to come up with excuses for the things he said that scared her. She must be misunderstanding. She was being paranoid. He had been drowning in sorrow, yesterday. He’d been nothing but hospitable, if a bit odd, today.

But then he was asking her questions. Benign at first, and then more prying than Ophelia had been with herself. “I like blue, actually. Like the sky when the clouds are very wispy and light.” She admitted. She inclined her head and fidgeted where she stood, in regard to the other questions. “I don’t have a lot of things. There is a wrist watch I’m attached to, I guess. I was told it was my—our father’s.” she said. And then, “Favorite body part? I… don’t know. Hands, maybe?” she tugged at her braid. An unexpected question for which she had no good answer. Did Nathan pity her, floundering in this simple conversation?

“What about you, Sir, is your favorite color blue also? I saw the roses in the labyrinth hedges and you said you preferred this room blue.” She smiled at him. A commonality might be something nice to find. “And your favorite thing and… body part?” she thought it sounded lewd when she said it and it made her blush. “Thank you for showing me around.” Ophelia added, to make up for her own awkwardness as they walked back toward her room. She thought she might actually remember how to get back to the sitting room, walking at a relaxed pace without a funeral looming over her head.

“Maybe we should talk about that contract you mentioned?” she steered the conversation toward even less comfortable waters in her fluster, as they reached the door some minutes later. “I mean, that is, it’s certainly not necessary…” she cleared her throat and opened the door. Was she supposed to invite him in? Ophelia stared down at her feet instead. 

Verse

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Re: Ash and Roar
« Reply #10 on: June 16, 2016, 09:52:52 pm »
It was quaint to listen to her relate to the masks mother and father had to build in stone and mortar and glue. Maybe all struggles are the same. If only he wasn't so addicted to a certain aesthetic of struggle. Maybe Ophelia would fare better for it. Maybe Ansa would have, also. This was a new thing for him, this kind of courtship. Little victories, her closeness, her relenting fear. Eggshells under his leather soles following her un-soled ones. Blue, watch, hands. He whispered it with little flicks of his vocal chords, as he trailed behind her, diving into that little rhythm with his head high. She'd touched her hair as though to show off those hands.

"Blue?" he asked when she suggested it. "Blue." He had to relive the color in all the ways he'd experienced it. Black eyes caught the mark on her cheek. It was unfortunate that both twins would bruise to well. "Blue is good." He was savoring the corridors as they passed in reverse of how he'd shown them to her. Soon he got to wave at the chefs again. "But I'm a red soul. Up close, red is frustratingly gentle." It was very true, she'd find out. "I have a suit from when I was a child. I hated it at first, but then it was the best thing." He gave her a knowing smile at that. "And my favorite body part is my hands, as well." he held them out for her, and wiggled the fingers. They were pretty like his gait was, something inherently robust forced into a comfortable life. A soldier made a prince. He shook his head at her gratitude. "What kind of host would I be, if I wasn't also a guide?"

He contemplated something by her threshold when she'd opened the door. His mood was lighter. Nathan stepped quickly to catch up, having let them have their conversation to themselves so far. "Sir." the flightless bird tried again, and this time Kvell touched his chest with all five fingers and none of the palm.

"Go get the mice." Kvell said and it was through a cold voice-box. On stale joints the rooster turned. An order, if there had ever been one. Kvell stepped into the room, passed her if need be. It seemed the butler had drawn some civility out of the lord. "Sorry. He is passionate about some things." he explained, tugging at the collar of his shirt, and excusing one button. "But so am I. And this isn't the Brandston manor." Kvell shrugged out of his jacket and allowed her to read and deal with the atmosphere as she pleased. He didn't look at her when the jacket slid off his arms and he pressed the door shut with his shoulder. He was doing something, clearly. In the process of setting something up.

"Your hands." he said as he came to her, for her, flinging the jacket back expertly. His posture hadn't changed, but in the light of this room, the power in it was stressed more than it had been in the more open spaces. If she didn't give them to him, he'd lift them himself and look at them, looming body dancing hers backward, until she hit the bed with her legs. It was fluent, but it wasn't asking for compliance. He touched her knuckles and could measure the distance between them with the length of his thumbs. "They're good. Let's be careful with them." and then he let go, pushing her into the bed. He didn't need the force he'd used yesterday, in front of eternal Ansa. The edge of the bed would trip her easily.

Kvell followed soon, and though he enjoyed her struggle, be it verbal or physical, he wouldn't allow it to slow him down as he crossed her wrists against the board and stuck his remaining hand under the mattress above her head. His knees on either side of her, he pulled out leather bands with rings not unlike the ones already on the wooden panel. He clad her forearms carefully with them, one by one, allowing the hand not being attended to it's fruitless rebellion. The clicks of the rings that would have her arms hanging from the rings already in place were deafening. He allowed himself to enjoy her upset as he undid his sleeves and rolled them. Red.

"Sky blue, you said." he remembered as he dismounted with his long legs and came to the closet and drew out one of the shoe boxes underneath the dresses. The door opened to the room. Maids of roughly the same height with the same masks. Mice, kind and alert, that would listen but never answer her. Some of them had to come in for them all to be able to see Ophelia. "Perfect." he declared as he took out an apparatus that fit in his hand. The little machine was clearly built toward its point. He placed the opened shoe box beside her on the bed, where she couldn't kick at it. Ophelia would see that there was no rooster in the silent audience.

"See?" he beckoned, a little vial of light blue held between two fingers. "Your favorite." It was easy for him to straddle her legs and push up the dress. He'd not provided her with undergarments, and he'd be very surprised to learn she'd fashioned something out of something else. "Our contract." he said, when the poor dress had been moved up around her chest, exposing her stomach and ribbs. "Our witnesses." he nodded to the mice.

It was unpleasant, of course, the way he'd carry on with the needle over her sensitive ribs, no matter the cooling swab he followed with. He might have been attractive to her, with his focus, bent over her with his hair in one eye, if she could see through the uninvited pain, and this violation. He would let her have the rumpled dress in her mouth, to steel herself of it, if she wished for it. If she did bite into the dress, would she feel the special way the fabric wrinkled under her teeth? Would the dress remember that mouth, from Ansa? There were other things with teeth marks, in the locked cabinet in the corner.

When he was finaly done, none could know exactly how long - this room was windowless, and timeless because of it - he washed her agitated, bleeding side in the solution again, and kissed her forehead sweetly. With his knees and hands around her, him over her, did they look like lovers to the mice? "There. Our contract is ready, Ophelia." he said, and would let her say her bit, if she wished. With flicks that would be insults to her struggle so far, he released the rings from each other, and left her arms free but still leather clad. "Aren't you glad it's in a place you won't loose it?" if she fought, he'd remind her dearly that moving too much would upset the text he'd immortalized on her. With the machine placed out of reach in it's box of vials, the brother didn't have much to fear from the prodigal sister. He wiped a tear from her and licked it off his thumb gingerly, waiting for her command that he leave, or he would hold her, if he thought she couldn't take anymore of the Oleander hospitality.
« Last Edit: June 19, 2016, 11:37:43 pm by Verse »

VenomousEve

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Re: Ash and Roar
« Reply #11 on: June 21, 2016, 06:59:12 pm »
Ophelia had fooled herself into thinking she had made some form of progress. Surely the previous evening could be blamed on fits of grief. Kvell was peculiar but not unkind, she had decided. Their walk through the manor had been pretty and mild. The house was lovely. Kvell had been polite.

That small and blossoming comfort, a hope the coming month might even be enjoyable, wilted with his strides into her room. Careful with her hands? As if he did not intend to be careful with the rest of her. She remembered he had implied as much when they’d passed the kitchen. His jacket, tossed away, made him imposing in red. She clutched her hands together before her. Misplaced protectiveness as she stepped back and he carried her momentum further so she toppled onto the bed.

Ophelia gasped when he moved over her, capturing her wrists and pulling her captive. She struggled to look past him toward the door. She recalled the outside lock and wondered if Nathan would set her free. Ophelia remembered that Nathan was Kvell’s, though. Sympathy did not warrant disobedience. The door would stay shut. Her appeals could be for the Master only.

She wriggled fruitlessly as he made to strap her down. “Please, what are you doing?” she demanded, a flush in her cheeks to pair the adrenaline spiking through her veins. “I’m your sister!” she yelped. A claim she wished to believe, because it might tie her to his compassion. Ophelia had not met Ansa. He climbed off of her when she was secured and the leather bit into her soft wrists. Big tears smarted in her eyes, threatening to overflow and carry with it the rising panic. She couldn’t sit up enough to see what Kvell was looking for, though she heard the wardrobe open.

A file of maids, with masks fashioned to look like mice, came through the door and closed it behind them. They were silent, and that was frightening. “What’s going on?” she asked. None of them answered, but Kvell brought back a device that gave her some clue. She’d not seen one in person, but she understood its purpose. “What are you going to do?” she asked again, pulling at her restraints. She kicked her legs to push herself away from him, but couldn’t make it far. Her shoulders would not allow it without some significant hurt. “Please, Sir Kvell, I don’t understand.” She whimpered as he put himself astride her again.

Pristine skin as the dress was rumpled upward, warm and flushed with her struggling. “Stop!” she shrieked then, her modesty compelling her to thrash beneath him in protest. A pretty display as the fine ribs danced with her panting. Contract. Witnesses. Ophelia began to cry. Ansa had cried, on occasion, but never like this. Ansa cried when she was angry, but she’d never been scared of anything. Ansa had given him tears at the same time her lips had given him kisses. She’d never wept.

Large crystal tears caught in between her long lashes, framing Ophelia’s frightened expression in glitter. The fear was quickly supplanted by the rude pain of Kvell’s inking device. She bit hard at the fabric of the dress, tossed high and out of his way, as she sobbed. She did stop struggling, though, still save her fevered breath. It wasn’t for any love of whatever mark he was branding onto her virgin flesh, but out of concern for causing herself greater pain if she made his hand slip. She was, perhaps, as concentrated as he was.

At some point, her tears dried and the stifled crying fell silent. Ophelia squeezed her eyes shut and prayed to disappear, clenching her fists and remaining as still as she was able. The pain had dulled with the spreading ache of the places he had finished. She decided she had been betrayed. By Sister Netty and by the mice and Nathan and this brother of hers. What Ophelia didn’t know was whether or not she deserved it.

When he stopped and leaned over to kiss her forehead, she flinched and opened her eyes. “Contract…” she mumbled and stared at him. Clearly worn weary, she blinked and looked longingly at the door. “What does it say?” she asked, flat and quiet. He released her wrists from the rings but left the leather. Bound still, then. On her wrists and in her flesh. Some Devil’s contract.

He suggested she should be glad that he’d done such a thing to her and she almost laughed, but found that it hurt. His thumb below her eye, where the tears were still caught in the lace of her lashes. “I don’t understand any of this.” She said softly. “I thought—I thought I was supposed to be your family and…” she had nothing to say of Ansa’s funeral. Ophelia closed her eyes again, exhaling slowly. She didn’t bother trying to struggle. She didn’t think of running. Nothing in this man’s presence, surely. She was sore. Her wrists ached, too. And her shoulders. She hugged her arms across her chest. She felt very alone.

Ophelia didn’t tell him to leave, because she wasn’t sure if being alone was worse. She would never have asked him to stay, either. She wondered where the gentler man that had shown her the manor had disappeared to. Had Kvell just been pretending, then? Another slow breath. He’d told her she could have sweets from the kitchen when she was feeling hurt like this. It hadn’t been an idle comment. Ophelia hoped the desserts were exceptionally good. She couldn’t imagine a satisfactory reconciliation for this sort of violation.   

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Re: Ash and Roar
« Reply #12 on: June 22, 2016, 10:50:12 pm »
Kvell was elated with Ophelia. Her clutched hands that would not be the shield she wanted, her breaths at every turn, her eyes gracing his shoulders on their way through the door. "We are preparing our contract." he assured her, when she demanded. There could have been jest in his tone, sometimes he would pepper it for Ansa's fire, but the treasure hidden in Ophelia was not the scorching or the teeth. "But do you know what it entails to be my sister, Ophelia?" he replied when she tried that claim. Her words had been lovely enough to earn her a swift grace along her jawline, though. There was some jest in that.

He couldn't reward all her pleas even though he wanted to encourage them. It was distracting equally when she fell quiet, digging teeth into the dress. There was a glass casing around his black eyes for her, when her suffering hung around her like another color of her skin, an appearance bejeweled with large stars at the corner of her eyes. Sometimes he had to sit just a little harder on her legs, when he pushed the needle deeper, if only for the intimacy. He wondered if she felt the weight of the sermon of his branding her. When the machine shared her silence, he delicately traced the outlines of her new marks. The letters were deep because of the red shadows. He wanted to pet them, and see her suffer from it. Instead he answered her question.

"On a morning when the sun cut the dancing room, Ophelia promised to stay for thirty days. On penalty of great suffering for breaching, and for a reward of greater suffering still, she would know the Oleander manor with her brother. And on the last day, if she wished to go, she would have all that she would ever want if money could buy it, and if she would stay, she would stay forever. But if she stayed, she would stay with her tattooed, thorn-cut, half-eaten heart." His meter was perfect, reading her mark back to her. Kvell had thought of the phrasing since Nathan had strongly suggested the month of trial. He had written in cursive, of course, and in a language Ansa and he had invented, an amalgamation of latin and gaelic. And whimsy.

He stayed on the bed, keeping the box away, safely away, so she couldn't fear its return. Ansa had never sat like this, holding herself. It was curious to him, and it laid a few electrical pangs across his heart. "You are my family, Ophelia." he echoed. "My only family." he promised as he reached to stroke those crossed arms. He wanted her like collectors want porcelain things, how could he not, when her quiet had soaked saliva into her dress like she was some agonized but obedient loyal. There was no regret in him, even as he stroked her gold rose hair as the mice left, some shoulders in that crowd shaking. They knew to close the door carefully. "Was it so terrible? You've never felt like that before. Isn't there novelty in newness as there is safety in familiarity? Don't dismiss it. Everything that stirs you can tantalize you." A bit of betrayal came off her. He could have her crying, and fainting, and even dying a bit, but betrayal was too strong a taste for him, so early.

He lifted her easily into his lap, to place her legs across it, side saddle. This was new also. Ansa had never needed this, much, so he had never given it, much. He buried his nose in her hair and sucked at her scent which was warmed by her distress. A soft inhale. "Are you cross with me?" he asked, curious as he patted her back. He also kissed her shoulder. "Can't you see this kind of thing is delicious, Ophelia?" he said, no apology there, but rather advice. It was better she saw it for what it was, so that she could start enjoying it. "Speaking of delicious." he added as he lifted her just as the door opened. The rooster. The bow was cold, but if she'd learned anything about Nathan yet, it was that he was inwardly reprimanding himself rather than expressing any animosity toward her.

"It seems the desserts are ready." Kvell said and walked with her on his arms out the door. Kvell was strong, and he could bring her along without any effort. It so happened that she was the perfect size for an accessory for him. If she thought about it, as he rocked her subtly on their way to the kitchen, she might be able to discover that he had grown up against Ansa, that his body had formed to accommodate hers. "There are other things that we could enjoy, culinarily, but that's at least a third day kind of treat." he said as he left a puff of that breath billow against her ear, so she would look at him, if she wasn't already. "But you'd have a lacking thirty days if you went without." he continued.

"You are a villain." Nathan said, turning the mask back to look at the Sir and the sister.

Kvell leaned in closer still, to her to whisper as they bent their trajectory to pass through the opened kitchen doors. "I am." he confessed as he placed her on an isle. It was not meant for anything but preparing food, so it was clean steel. They had made ice-creams and pastries. Nathan especially insisted on one of three milkshakes, built tall with cream, candy crushings, and fruit. Kvell looked betrayed now, when the butler slid one of the glasses, fingers on the foot, toward the sitting Ophelia. The straw was big, sticking out of the fluffy head of the liquid pleasure, and so it could be taken with some kind of autonomy. Kvell, of course, liked the tray of small things, that he had placed her close to. He lifted a minuscule, full cake to her lips, and smiled as though seeing it with her was enough. There was a trick he liked to play, switching his thumb in the place of the fingers presenting the morsel, that her lips would close around the lonely digit instead. Then he would eat the sweetness himself, face close to hers, before she could let go with her teeth or tongue or lips or all. Of course he would introduce her to the trick, if she chose to open her lips for him.

"Is there something missing on this table that you would rather have, Ophelia?" he asked. "We can have it by tonight if it's common, and by tomorrow if it's rare." He had an urge to kiss her then, the double thicknesses that had told him to stop, and tried to barter for him to stop with their blood relation. He also had a very hard and insistent inclination to press her down, pretty, familiar face first into a tart and climb up on the table with her, so he could take something more from her, skewer her on him, while digging his fingers into her new, irate writings until her face was creamy and her dress was bloody and her belly was swimming. "You can have almost anything, you know."

He would tell her what he knew of the things they'd made as he fed them to her, and how he couldn't stand the disappointment of macrons, how their color and shape over-sold their taste. He said that she was not the same. She surprised him, he said, with the way she tasted. It was very true. Ansa, of the same shell and the same potential, had diverged completely. In a way Kvell was being unfaithful to Ansa's memory with this, and it hurt him, but it also gave him life in way he'd not discovered until today. After some tenderness, lined in sugars and mint leaves, he would brush her side and watch the garden of crimson blossom, if it had not grown already, on the dress. It should make her twitch, at least.

"Come. You're too distracting. That´s punishable." jest, probably. "I should tend to that, so that it heals. There are some miracles in this house, you'll see, and they aren't all going to be played out between the ends of my fingers and the endings of your nerves." She could protest, but even the rooster would cluck in Kvell's favor. There was a bath, deeper in the house, with a window overlooking the garden, that was bluer now, with evening nearing. The water would be kind to her, and Kvell would sit with her, and wear a glove to fuss over the contract as it was drowned in the good, spiked liquid.

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Re: Ash and Roar
« Reply #13 on: June 27, 2016, 05:21:23 am »
Ophelia listened to him speak the contract he’d etched on her flesh and thought she might wilt away. “Paper would have been sufficient, I think, Sir.” She mumbled, some heavy and overwhelming exhaustion flowing over her in a powerful wave. Her body, it seemed, had decided its trial was over and left her deeply tired as it swept up the adrenaline it had seeded in her veins. It was bothersome that he made their contract sound so neat. Pretty, even. She would swear otherwise by the aching bruises that were already competing with the blue ink.

Kvell appealed to their familial relation and she wondered if he expected her to feel something for it. She’d use a similar plea and found no sympathy. If this was how he had treated Ansa she had no desire to be his sister. “You don’t even know me. I was never part of this family until you needed a replacement face.” She sighed. If the comment was dry, the frightened hunch of her shoulders was enough to provide sincerity.

He seemed to think she should have liked what he’d done, on some level. It confused her, because nothing of that restrained and uninvited hurt had been pleasant. Exposed to people she didn’t know and marked by a man who she had not though owned her. One hand traveled down to the throbbing ribs. But he did own her. For thirty days. She had agreed to that, at some point. Or, it seemed like it. She really wasn’t sure. “Novelty like that is hurtful. It was unexpected.” A little edge of chastisement in her voice. The Sisters had worn off on her. “There are sweeter ways to love a sister.” She said. Ophelia didn’t know that from any experience, of course. But she was quite sure this was not the norm of siblings behind closed doors.

Kvell, now more like her tea room Kvell, scooped her into her lap more gently than she would have supposed he could. She stiffened, suspicious, but was too tired to make much of protesting. His face in her long hair seemed soft enough. Ophelia felt herself relax into his arms and wasn’t sure it was because she wanted the comfort or was simply too exhausted to scramble away. “Of course I’m cross with you.” She complained, and sounded more like Ansa than she could possibly have realized.

Ophelia was inclined to remind him, again, that he hadn’t asked her if she could find his behavior enjoyable before the fact when the door opened. Nathan the rooster. The big dark eyes were on the butler curiously. He seemed sympathetic. Some of the other staff did too, for that matter. But he wouldn’t move to help her. He’d proven that multiple times now. She wondered if Kvell had broken the man down also. Perhaps Nathan would find that look similar to disappointment, but it was not. Ophelia simply could not fathom Oleander Manor. The whole concept seemed twisted and surreal.

Kvell had stood, taking her with him, and had he not been responsible for her injuries she might have felt like she was being rescued by a prince. Desserts, he said. It was a childish response, but she perked up just a little. Blame it on the paucity of sweets at the orphanage. He was saying things she didn’t quite catch the meaning of, poor innocent, but the promise of treats had her watching him with a bit less sour. Maybe Kvell wasn’t terribly unfair, then. Just raving mad.

Nathan called his master a villain. Openly. And Kvell agreed. Openly. Ophelia blinked at both men. Little rabbit. How Ansa would have smacked her silly for such stupidity. She was too sweet. Too soft. Too unblemished. Ansa had been an unapologetic brat. She’d known every turn and look to goad her brother on. The woman had gone looking for agony like her life depended on it. Whether the brother had understood that about her or not was hard to say. He had indulged her, if nothing else.

Ophelia was won over too easily. It was a deep fault that she was so forgiving, or so gluttonous. The milkshake was enough to elicit a gasp. She hadn’t ever seen anything so pretty. She reached for it with both hands, like she’d been given some sort of treasure, and sighed with unabashed pleasure at the taste. “This is the most amazing thing I’ve ever tasted.” She said to both men. “Thank you.” Again to both, because she wasn’t sure who she should thank.

Kvell was bringing small cakes to her lips, to distract her from the ice cream, and she went to take them from his fingers without much second thought. Breakfast had trained her for this and weariness excused her from questioning it. Besides, it all smelled of sugars and creams and she was beside herself over it. When he gave her his thumb in lieu of the baked morsel she expelled it quickly. The look she gave him was wounded, but it was the sort of face one made when in disbelief. Whether disbelief was more egregious than betrayal must depend on the mood, but it somehow lightened the gravity of her earlier mood. She was simply a soft thing, prone to hurts. A dangerous suggestion, that Kvell ought not feel too guilty. If he had a concept of such a feeling at all.

The brother opened the window for demands and Ophelia wasn’t sure what to do with it. She gaped at him, briefly. “Sir, I wouldn’t know what to ask for. I’ve only ever had very modest desserts at the Home.” She brought a hand to cover her mouth and blushed as if that made her uncultured. “This is already more than I would have dreamt, as a small girl.” The desserts, not this place and this man. Or did it matter, really? Was there a difference?

He seemed to take it upon himself to educate her, dumb girl to her sweets, and she tried everything as a dutiful student. Ophelia was pleased enough that she only winced a little when this movement or that pained her side. She hadn’t forgotten the frightening ministrations but they had been sweetened with this sugar. He’d said something of appreciating novelty. Ophelia wondered if it was sin to accept that kind of thinking if she could be pampered after. She glanced at Nathan and looked guilty. If there was anyone in that room to judge her for such a whim it was the rooster, she was sure.

When Kvell touched the place he’d inked, where there was a bit of her red and his blue smearing through the soft satin dress, she was in the middle of something new and spongy and thick with honey. The surprise and the taste had a peculiar effect and a tiny sound, somewhere between a moan and mewl, escaped her pretty cream-covered lips. It was something to be ashamed of, and her telling porcelain skin wore it well.

She did not protest when he took her from the room.

Ophelia did make the appropriate efforts to dissuade him from unclothing her, though, that sort of modesty keeping hold where other inhibitions might have faltered just so. It was out of necessity more than any real belief she could prevent him. He had, quite obviously, done worse in this one day. The bath made her unladylike exposure worth it and she really did whimper and sigh then, as if for a lover. If pain could be exquisite, she was sure it was only because the aftermath was satisfying. She sank into the bath as if all her limbs had come undone. There was that reminder of how tired she was, again. Rosy gold waves snaked out like a dark fire halo as they flailed adrift on the bath water.

She didn’t look at him, absorbing the garden view instead. “Will you tell me about my sister?” she asked against the shivering ripples. Ophelia leaned her head back against the cool tub. “Were you cruel to her, also? Or is this punishment for having her face?” she asked. The tired gaze remained on the fading landscape beyond. Reds and blues, from the low sun and the long shadows. Like her blood and the ink, which drifted lazy watercolors from her side. “Did she love you?” Her ribs ached. It hurt some to breathe, even. “Am I supposed to?” 

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Re: Ash and Roar
« Reply #14 on: June 28, 2016, 12:47:02 am »
Surely paper would have been. There was laughter in him for her, then, but he wouldn't let it escape. Even Kvell's cruelty had limits. The dagger that followed though, hurt him slightly. It was only fair. He could not be quiet when she absoluted about alternative ways to show affection to a sibling. "No, there is not, Ophelia." Not a hard voice, because why would such a deep truth need the cementing? Surely, he would not practice this love if he did not believe in it. His grin in the wake of her perfect channeling of Ansa's smaller wraths chased away the stiffness of pious. He noticed her hopeful gaze toward Nathan and wondered quickly if that should be a problem. The butler had known and seen Ansa's spirit lacing with the Sir's own inclinations. It had not been such a foreign symbiosis to the head of help. It seemed the rooster did not apply this understanding to Ophelia.

She did not hold on to her mood, or let it become vengeance. The salt was easily softened with powdered sugars and exquisite food dyes. When Nathan looked, from not too far away, he saw a very gentle expression to Kvell, feeding their guest with eager, like some alchemist with a new element, trying all previous concoctions with it, and loving the results. The last remaining master of the mining dynasty laughed loud at her display after having tasted his thumb, and had to catch his own mouth with the hand that wasn't providing her with honeyed surprises. It was unlike Kvell to be engaged in this way. Lady Ansa had pulled at another part of him. If she had been a fire, then this forgotten sister was a lure, rather, something to call for attention with its inside rather than explosive reactions.

Kvell thoroughly went about spending all the major flavors that had been laid out for her. She was a good thing to spoil. He learned all too quickly this was one of her weaknesses, and he thought it was fitting. What a pretty vice to have. Ansa had also approved of candies, but she had not been this smitten. He thought of other ways to pamper her as he watched her lick her lips and have more. "Then you will have to learn to dream more formidable dreams." he encouraged, when she underlined her denied upbringing. His eyes spread in the whites, lashes flexing like crucial feathers clamoring for high wind when she breathed a lush sound through a morsel when he graced their contract. If either of them had looked at Nathan, they would have seen a very worried bird. Both men had been drawn by that instance.

Of course he'd not have her protests, undressing her. Now she lay like the Bard's Ophelia, lovely in the water. Her little life clouds gave a tint to the depths, as though the gilded tub wasn't lending enough quality to the liquid. He felt as though he was painting, playing with her like this. of course the firm sponge that petted her favored the outlines of the ink. He winched when she spoke of Ansa, while she looked exactly like her, and acted nothing like her. Ophelia had let him forget, for a little while. He squeezed some crimson and clear over her heart before scrubbing her shoulder. "Ansa was like a star. Not like one from the bed-time song, where it twinkles, but like something that has solar storms, and affect the world." he smiled at the memories, on his knees on the tile, sleeve rolled as high as it would. "Or perhaps just the aura of a star, the parts with the ripples, that you imagine could whip at you." He kissed her hair, as though to say 'you are not that'. "She almost consumed me. And she would have eaten you."

He smirked, and it was a black crescent, projected by black stories. Fond though. "I was cruel to her. And she answered in kind." The sponge on her cheekbones, and over her chin. The medicine in the bath should do well to mend her. "But of course, we were of different addictions, so it became an exchange. Do you know?" he thought of honey and cream and that moan she'd made. "Of course you do." Sound of an afterthought, or conviction. He drew a line with the washing tool over her sternum to her navel. He favored that particular stretch, she'd learned by now. To him, the twins were morphing now, into one story. It was a senseless and indulgent fantasy, and it traveled the sponge closer toward the apex of her legs.

He recoiled. Something stubborn and elegant being burnt. "She loved me." he answered. But if she did, why did she leave me? A sentiment and note she'd heard before, by a leather clasped carcass and candlelight. He let go of the formerly white, now pink, orb that had gotten to know her. That hand on her scalp, slowly pushing her to slide below the surface. It wasn't a threatening act, and his fingers would ride her features as she would inevitably bob up again. "You can love me if you want." he said as her hair was flat and shining against her drowned ear. "I will certainly petition for it." He parted his regal lips to suck and drink from that lobe. "But you can't love me like her, and I can't be that brother to you." after he'd swallowed and let go.

She was compliant now, tired as she was. A large day for anyone. So he would wash her a bit longer, and have her stand up. The heat always put him to sleep. He hurried to wipe her off, almost rough, so she wouldn't be cold. The towel wasn't hard and reused. It was the creamiest, thickest weave there was for that purpose. And the robe was a deeper luxury still. He held her closer, having discovered her more, as he flicked the door open with his shoe and walked them toward her room again, the rooster a quiet tail. Kvell kissed her temple sometimes, and her forehead others. She would notice the integrity of the contract, and how it did not stain the robe. Magic that money could buy.

He placed her on her bed and pulled out a gown from a drawer. "What was it like in the orphanage?" he'd ask. "Must have been lonely." Possessive to a fault, he would still free her of the after-bath attire, and clothe her in a well-loved, white bell. It would give him time to admire the contract, still impossibly vivid because of the swelling. "You're not an orphan anymore, whether you will stay or not, in thirty days." And it was a sincerity, that was joined by another real thing when he sat himself down by the bedboard, and one of the rings chimed to remind her of what kind of brother her was. It was unfortunate for the laid-bare Lord Oleander, that the shadows in the room that was always day and always night crossed his beauty just so the whites of his eyes were black, and the finery of his symmetry were trenches. Hadn't he been a hungry monster, chaining her here with no regard that she might disapprove of eternal marks? "Do you think you'll love me though, if I try my hardest to make you happy?"

It was better, this stark shade and telling illumination, to know his duality. And dancing in those sockets where some kindness had been, a story of his greed, and a reminder she did not know this spoiled person. Would her answer even matter? He would pretend it did, surely. "Perhaps you'll want me to stay, tonight? Your choice. I imagine it will be better than being alone." A little hope, in those hollows, maybe. What is a carnivore most hopeful for?

A rooster, then, with slick hair. Nathan abused their privacy, stepped right into it. "Lady Ophelia. You could go to bed now. There are things to do tomorrow." He was going to pretend he'd not heard the conversation and held up the jacket Kvell had left here, lifetimes ago. "I'm sure you would like to prepare for it, too, Sir." And Sir did. But he was upset with the blatant injection of self into a delicate moment. Kvell remained sitting on the bed, and waited for her response. He was out of the worst shadows, so she could see him sulking. He would leave with quick steps, as do the rejected, upon her no, and triumphantly usher the protesting rooster out, if she said he should stay.

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Re: Ash and Roar
« Reply #15 on: June 28, 2016, 06:59:57 pm »
She was captured a bit by the way he painted Ansa. There are books written about women like that. The untamable souls that wreak havoc and beauty on everything around them until they burn themselves out. Ophelia wanted to ask what had burnt Ansa out, but there was a little twinge in her gut that said she could very well have guess. Unnatural and before her time. The look on Kvell’s face said Ansa’s departure had come like a personal affront. Ophelia decided to hold the question.

The way he spoke made her shiver, because it was the most sincerity she thought she’d had from him. And it was dark and bladed but unmistakably affectionate. Would she be made to learn those same vices? To shoulder that kind of love that made bones creak? Ophelia let him bathe her without protest, her expressions changing when it hurt but otherwise lulling in the swirl of his story. The lashes fluttered, something flighty and nervous with the travel of his sponge, but she felt saved by his small dismay. More insult and injury. She thought to apologize. “Yes. Of course she loved you. It sounds like you were both very close.” She agreed with him to amend.

He baptized her in the bath and she pretended it was forgiveness. There was nothing to be proud of in making the grieving question the dead. There was a new spike with his face near and then a touch that might have made blush with shame if she weren’t already flushed from the warm water. Tiny yelp, but she stayed with his cadence. “I don’t know if I can love you.” She was honest. “You scare me, a little bit.” Bistre eyes searched a white face. “You’re my brother because that’s what I was told. I don’t know it for myself yet, I think.” She pulled her knees up in the tub, small rosy islands jutting up from the water and spidering with a rush of blood toward the cool air.

She didn’t want him to love her like he’d loved Ansa. Ophelia wasn’t a star. She was not nearly so brilliant or volatile. “I can try.” To love you. To know you as my brother. “But I’m me. Ophelia.” Ansa’s face but not her soul. “It’s okay if I don’t feel like a sister to you, either.” She offered. Maybe he was kinder to those he didn’t share lineage with. Maybe he was worse.

There was some quiet when he finished bathing her and the sloshing water played a lullaby that had her heavy-lidded by the time he made her stand. She blinked spots from her eyes when she was on her feet, teetering briefly from the fatigue and the steam. He was purposeful when he dried her and it made her squirm a bit when the movements were rough on her aching body, despite the lush towel and the good the bath had done.

Ophelia was appreciative though, when he shrouded her in the thick robe and made to carry her off. She was sure she was too tired to trudge her way back to the room, which seemed miles off in her sleepy head. She leaned against him and did her best to stay awake when his heartbeat picked up the lullaby the bathwater had sang. A quiet and sturdy rhythm that appealed to her in the strange upturn of her new existence. It was odd that his kisses weren’t a bother, this man she barely knew, but she didn’t dwell on it for long.

He asked her about the Home when she’d been settled on the bed. “No, it wasn’t lonely. The Sisters that cared for us are like family. Adoptions were rare so I grew up with the same faces and they all became a bit like family too.” She smiled. “They keep you busy in places like that, too. When I was very little I disliked the work but it was helpful when I got older and needed the distraction.” No matter how kind it was, she’d have been lying if she said that she hadn’t spent some years wondering why she’d been left behind. “I like to think I was raised well. I still say my prayers, even when the Sisters aren’t there to scold me.” She actually giggled then, the first real happiness she’d given to Oleander Manor that wasn’t sugar-spun.

He dressed her for sleep. Not an orphan anymore. Ophelia didn’t tell him she hadn’t felt like an orphan for some years now. Coming of age was more significant for the children of the Home than many others, because it meant some acknowledged independence that shed their “unwanted” status. However, legality never did fill the gaps left for family. She wasn’t about to try and say it was the case.

Instead, her expression grew serious again and she stared at the lines of his face intently. She wondered if he was aware that he had, to some degree, made her a prisoner and it was a bit preposterous to suggest he had selfless intentions of making her happy. At the same time, she hadn’t found it in herself to hate him. It might have been worse that he seemed to toe the line of awful and kind. “I don’t know.” She said, answer unchanged from the bath.

Little lamb in white, with her wolf offering comfort. Ophelia wasn’t sure that she was so desperate. Nathan came to some rescue. She tried to be polite. “I’m really very tired. I think I’ll be fine on my own, thank you. If you have things to prepare for tomorrow, you should go.” As forceful a ‘no’ as she could muster for the man that had strapped her down when he’d wanted. Perhaps she should have thought harder on what it was to encourage him to prepare. She snuggled down beneath the plush covers on the bed, like she needed the protection.

“If you’re worried I’ll run off you can always lock the door. Or make Mr. Rooster stand guard.” She suggested. Dangerous, maybe, to invite the butler’s presence while she slept when the master had been rejected. But Nathan hadn’t bruised her body with needles and ink. 

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Re: Ash and Roar
« Reply #16 on: July 01, 2016, 12:09:19 am »
He had liked the way she tried to soothe his heartbreak. Surely Ophelia speaking was as close to Ansa communicating he would ever come, again. In the fumes, laden with benign drugs and her scent, his loving madness allowed itself to spread for a while. This was the lost sister. Then, when not a minute had passed, she was not Ansa- she was, in fact, Ophelia, scared of him, but benevolent, willing to try. He liked both those things. Ansa had not been frightened. He'd driven her mad before he'd made her scared. So he had to remember that this body was not a shell for Ansa, once more. He felt grateful, not frustrated this time, and carried her with that, parcel of lavish thread count as she'd become.

She giggled. He was surprised. He thought fleetingly at the life she recanted, and wondered without guilt in his own active part in it. He would tell her, inside the period she was here. Nathan would be thankful for that friction. No doubt noble, caring Nathan would hope such betrayal would pivot benevolent Ophelia away from the manor. Kvell wouldn't have that. "Prayers." he whispered after she'd put the word between them. He was interested in this. A religious home for children. How well they'd prepared this girl for him.

But her gifts stopped there, for today. No more moaning into pastries, no more pretty steeling for a needle. She did not want to sleep near him, or stay up all night, shackled, explaining how much trouble he was in for making her bleed, like the woman who had lived here before her. Kvell blamed Nathan, and thought she'd taken a right she had no claim to. Denied, two times. It was an effort for the young lord, who had grown up ravishing and spoiled, to leave her be. But he'd offered, and she'd declined. He stood from the bed with hard legs, fixing his shirt that had become all the stages of ease, with creases throughout the sleeves, buttoned down thrice. "Roosters aren't good for your sleep." he said as the butler took no offense while sliding the jacket onto his extended arms. "The lock, however, is needed." He took the handle of the door and looked at her, clean of all the romantic fatigue they'd built together. "The ghosts are always fresh here, and tomorrow is a much better time to try and escape." And the implications filled the room with focus on gothic details before he closed it.

In the morning, he would wait for her in the room with the traditional cups and pots. They had built a small, round table high. Every tier on the cake-stand hosted well made, perfect foods. She wouldn't know, but the availability of sandwiches was severely diminished in the spread, and the occurrence of sweeter fare had been multiplied. All kinds of teas at the ready, if she had a preference outside of the lower-rack grocery bought packets she'd had at the orphanage. He would caress the air in the direction of steaming spouts as he explained flavors to her, after Nathan had brought her. The staff would still wear masks, and those that showed mouths would set them tight.

"Did you dream well? You look quite good." he offered. "You said you wanted high tea." he reminded, standing there fully dressed, in blacks and deepest blues, his hair a bit playful ontop. His shoes were lower, almost sporty despite their polished finish. "This is a pleasant way to take it." And he'd even let Nathan point out a good dress for the occasion. A bonnet, also. Of course, without the option of shoes, herself, there'd always be the added exposure that such attire was meant to hinder. He wouldn't sit until he'd pushed her chair in for her, and remained close, even this meal, to feed her with the treasures that had been baked to impress, now that he knew she had an addicted tongue, and provide her with expertly poured tea. He made sure not to burn her.

"Ansa did not have a penchant for this room, but she didn't hate it." She would rather hate when he held the scalding spoons to her, or pinched her with tongs for sugar. Of course, all rooms, all themes, could be made into his kind of playroom. He frowned with some mirth when there was jam on the corner of her mouth, and quickly wiped it with the thumb she'd tasted yesterday. He took some tea himself. There was no indication as to whether he loathed or appreciated the drink. He'd taken tea enough times. While it wasn't an enemy to him, he didn't hold a penchant for it, either. Today might be more exiting for him, simply because it was the first for her.

"Did you say your prayers?" he asked, and made sure it was when she had something in her mouth. The voice was cheeky, but not doubting. He took a cherry something for himself, and chewed with bulged cheek. He wasn't entirely familiar with what kind of schedule was considered correct for knees and clasped hands. The lips and teeth were clean when he opened them again. "I was made to pretend at pious for a period, but mother tired of that dress-up." or was it because he'd pull her hair for attention when she tried to lower her head and ask for-- what would the woman who owned so much want? He was sure the theological conversations were about him, and that he be better at this or that. "But I can't remember much of the teachings. What do you pray for?" There was no rooster allowed in the room to make sure she knew exactly how dangerous that question was.

If she moved her bare feet about underneath the table, she would soon discover a box. If she looked underneath the cloth, he wouldn't stop her, and there would be a neatly wrapped present for her. He would pull it out and shake it very lightly. Pink, with a black bow. No sweets, he'd say with his condolences, but a very exquisite pair. She could have her suspicions, of a box this size, and the clue being that there was two of something inside. "It's something you haven't had since you got here." he continued. "I would like if we opened it together in the garden." Kvell was enjoying that possibility very much, visibly. "You can feel the grass with your feet." He held the present out, so she could examine it, but not open.

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Re: Ash and Roar
« Reply #17 on: July 02, 2016, 05:20:42 pm »
Ophelia didn’t mind ghosts, and fell asleep quickly despite the long shadows and the gothic deep of the room without its soft lighting. It was curious how it still glowed with effect, despite being without windows. At the Home, the children had often told stories about ghosts in the empty rooms. When they had gone to mass, the faces carved at the Stations of the Cross had looked sternly over the orphans and convinced them not to make light of the spirits. Ophelia was as kindred to the Home’s ghosts as she was to the other children.

She wondered if Nathan stood watch outside her bedroom or if he went to some rooster room after she closed her eyes. She wondered where Kvell retreated to. Another windowless suite or a glass and gilded cage, overlooking the labyrinth. She drifted into deep and hazy dreams of sweetness and the thick ache of needles on her skin.

When she woke up, the door was cracked just so and a package was wedged for her to find. Freshly steamed clothes wrapped in brown paper and tied with twine. Carefully done and left without a note, like everything in this house it was evident what her role was by quiet presentation. To tell her to put the thing on would have almost seemed garish against the deft way Sir Kvell ran his manor. She didn’t know it had been Nathan that had been allowed to pick the dress for the day.

She pulled the package inside and closed the door. Not more than thirty seconds later, there was a click to indicate the lock had been put back in place. She put the package on her bed and bent to pray for strength on this day. Strength against the fear and temptation, offered in equal measure in this place. She prayed for peace and compassion.

Ophelia readied herself in the small washroom, outfitted with a toilet, sink, and mirror but no bath. She combed out her long hair in front of Ansa’s vanity and let her gaze rove the pretty glass bottles collected there. In some curious act of boldness, she reached for a small red vial with curves that swept upward like a curled flame and wore a crown of gold filigree. Two fingers applied the softly spiced scent from inside along the flutter of her pulse in her slim throat and wrists.

The dress she had been provided was some bastardized Victorian thing, distinctly modern in cut despite the rich old fabrics. Though it was still warm from being cleaned, it was another article of Ansa’s, she was sure. The fabric was softer at the elbows and lightly worn at the hem. She pulled it on and was again struck by the perfection of fit. She had been tailored for Ansa, perhaps. A sky blue velvet bell of a skirt with soft chiffon ruffling along her thighs and offering some modicum of modesty where the pointed lack of undergarments offered none. A center panel of cream brocade, winking with floral patterns in gold thread, concealed fine corset bones that pressed her chest upward so the soft rounds were cupped and trimmed in pleated satin ruffle. The sleeves were long and belled, some mimic of the full skirt, and fell so that her slim fingers barely passed their hem.

She stared at herself in the mirror. Another doll-like look, subtly provocative in the twenty-first century interpretation. A daringly low back, brushing the small dimples at the base of her spine. From the right angle, the text Kvell had laid on her milky skin peeked from the side of the dress as they wrapped back along her ribs. This dress, like the small slip from yesterday, fell no further than the middle of her thigh.

Ophelia put on the bonnet, trimmed in the blue velvet of her dress, and tied the bow low. A blue ribbon in Ansa’s wardrobe worked to capture her long blush hair in a low ponytail over her shoulder. How very different from the jeans and ill-fitted blouses she’d worn most days at the Home. She felt transported into some bizarre other age, staring at her reflection. A breath and then she went back to try the door. It was still locked.

She was, more or less, content to wait. At Ansa’s desk she found the journal again.

Kvell drives me mad when he makes those faces and I know I ought to stop, but it’s some kind of addiction. I want to know how furious he can get. Sometimes I dream that I won’t survive him and that’s the most peace I’ve ever known. All the shadows and all the murmuring evaporates. It’s just Kvell and the worst things I can imagine. It makes me want to laugh and cry and I really could just die. Someday I hope I’ll die.

Mom and Dad are two days late coming back from their trip. Their flight left on time, and I’m sure there’s something wrong. Kvell and I should really check the news, but I asked him to get rid of all the televisions because I hate the way they sound. Nathan knows something, I think. He keeps looking for a moment to tell us but we haven’t given him one. I wonder if we can just pretend nothing is wrong. I think that’s easier than pretending to care. Kvell might be upset for real. I can’t be, though. Kvell is the only thing that matters anymore. Mom and Dad are miserable and hurt my head. I hate the way they look at me, like they made the wrong decision. I think I’d be okay with never seeing them make those faces again.


There was a short rap on the door, smart, and the door latch clicked. Ophelia scrambled to shut the journal and went to meet Nathan. She didn’t say much, politely engaging in morning pleasantries without looking the rooster in the eye. Perhaps, she was worried he’d know that she had been reading Ansa’s journal. Perhaps, she felt he might judge her for how little she was protesting this strange dollhouse game.

Ophelia, in her infinitely simple manner, was eagerly appreciative when she was lead to the tea room and understood what was presented there. “I did sleep well, thank you. This is beautiful, Sir,” she said, polite and bubbly. She pattered, barefoot, over the plush carpet to take her seat.

“It would be hard to hate a place like this, I think.” Ophelia suggested, grateful for the soft sun on her face from the large eastern window. She didn’t know whether Ansa’s indifference indicated Kvell’s indifference also, but she was thankful that he humored her like this. She savored the floral aroma of her tea as if she’d just been brought in from the cold. It might be hard not to enjoy the experience with her, given her earnest appreciation.

“I did say them, of course.” She answered when he asked about her prayers. “I usually say them before bed, also but…” she gave him a guilty look that was not wholly apologetic. “I was very tired. The bath was so calming and I suppose I couldn’t help myself. I will do better tonight.” Ophelia listened to him give her a little more of his childhood and had no judgment for him. The Sisters had not forced their religion on the children, but encouraged an effort to know God. Many had found Him, but just as many felt no empty that needed His filling. The Sisters had loved them no matter the choice. Maybe, if Ophelia had been raised in this manor, she would have found a religion in dark angel Ansa too.

“I pray for strength and peace. Forgiveness, too.” She answered. It would be the worst sort of thing to lie about her prayers. “I had wanted to join the convent and become a Sister. So I could continue work at the Home and help other orphans.” She told him. “I still intend to, I think, when—if I go back after my stay here.” Ophelia added. Sister Netty had insisted she see the world a bit before she make such a commitment. The nun could not have anticipated the kind of world Ophelia’s brother was offering. He might be amused that he was her alternative to a quiet and celibate life.

Ophelia took a sip of her tea, swinging her feet, which didn’t quite touch the floor, beneath the table. She was surprised to find the box with her toe and looked at Kvell for some sort of answer. His expression confirmed she ought to look and she dipped below the table to peek at the parcel. Her brow furrowed as she examined the pretty thing when he picked it up and brought it above for her to see clearer. “Something I haven’t had?” she asked carefully. There were a few things she could think of but she was reticent to ask. Everything she had been denied had seemed so purposeful.

“I would like that.” She said, accepting the box and turning it over in her hands. “The garden looks pretty.” She said. She’d hadn’t been outside in several days now, too. Ophelia set the box aside obediently and returned to nursing her tea. She looked at the sweets on the little circular riser in the center of the table and then at Kvell for permission. She hadn’t been allowed to handle food with her own hands in this house, yet.     

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Re: Ash and Roar
« Reply #18 on: July 03, 2016, 11:47:41 pm »
When she moved herself in, on her feet with no shoes, he understood her hair would become a problem, behind the hat, where it tried to hide against her back. Its absence, ruined now and then with elegant whips of rose to give her small wings, amplified its beautiful insult. Ansa the first had come expectant, waiting to explore the possibilities to fan his embers into a firestorm. He was starved for that sort of thing now, so this Ansa was walking into one already blazing, but without knowledge of it, or a want for it. Such a different kind of torture for him, denying himself to savor her. He'd seen other ingredients in Nathan's warning stares, yesterday. Surprise, probably at Kvell's restraint, and worry, for when that still ocean would rise to drown Ophelia. Waiting for her to make it to the table had Kvell thinking of when she tripped doing the same on their morning in the dance hall. He wished it would happen again but it didn't. He devised a few machinations to target her ankles when she said her sleep had been good.

There was no trail of hurt when she spoke. She was cautious, though the amount was not enough to suggest the writings he'd performed on her. He liked this kind of reset, it gave him opportunity to do more. It was good also, that she did not entirely trust to denial. That would have been devastatingly boring. He smiled in a way he'd been taught, when she would not hate this room as their sister had. The act felt a bit more genuine, in front of her. What she said on her prayers, though, drew him in completely. "What kind of forgiveness can a girl like you possibly be wanting for?" he demanded, struck curious. There was a a little outward arch of his fingers and a suggested shrug in the way the shoulders of his jacket almost moved when she mentioned her possible exit of the manor. It would be a bit of a loss to the sisters if Ophelia did not return. He had ways of filling her vacancy there. He suspected the place would be rather flush for sending her here, either way. He'd just not tended to it yet.

Her reaction to the box was better than he had hoped. Better than he could take, almost. She went about sealing another hardship for herself without knowing it, though her choice in the matter was questionable even to the lord. After all, why should she think to ask what was in the garden when he hadn't steered the conversation to suggest there was anything of note? Kvell leaned back, to see her with the gift, and then place it away. It was hard not to be reminded of the doll aesthetic, then. He was smitten, today also. While he let the silence go on, enjoying her want for the sweets while knowing he'd enjoy granting them to her, too, he came to remember Ansa hadn't much liked it when he gave her things. Or if she did she hid it.

"You hide nothing." he said to himself, for her to hear before he lifted the first baked and carefully assembled thing, placed it between two knuckles, and brought it to her. It was a bit like kissing a king's rings when she took it. He wasn't so keen on dictating the pace of this breakfast, and payed attention to her tells to know what to feed her next. If she got excited and pointed, he would allow that too. The chefs and bakers had been told to sprinkle powdered vitamins and use good oils, lacing the bites with nutrition so, in theory, she could exist on this diet if this was the only fare he could see her take. Doll's food are to be pleasing to the eye, and match the mouth of the doll.

He did his trick again, with the thumb, to see what other delights it might elicit, and told her she ate well. If she was the still, halted kind of surprised, he'd pet her tongue tip first, and see if he could massage it deeper in. He would even hold her gaze with his black orbs. It was a way to create a bond to some pets. He'd like the implications if she'd let him, but the tongue and mouth are reflexive things.

Her cup would never be empty, and he would also fill himself with cake. In good company, one is more likely to eat, after all. If either of them had seen the butler's face, and not the beak, they would have known he was pleased with the scene.

"There, sugar fiend." he said and leaned over his own hand, siren-calling her in with the last sweetness she'd be allow to sample. He'd fast place a big kiss on the rim of her hat before she could retract. "That's all we'll have for now." And he stood, placing the box in one arm, and offered her the other, after he'd helped her with the chair. "A walk to soothe the blood, with all that honey runny through it now, and then a big reveal." he shook the box again. It was, however, put into a satchel perfectly its size, by a horse in a frock, so he could wear it instead of carrying it.

Kvell was in a candid, good mood. It was not as secretive as yesterday. If she wanted she could think it was foreboding, or that she was finally seeing the real son of the old family. Outside, after a quick turn back to the dancing hall and out the doors onto the balustrade and down the steps, was blissful. The weather would allow for almost anything. His coat, her dress, or much lighter covering. "The grass shouldn't have any native pebbles or rocks." he said as they traveled the smooth stone path along the house. It was no whim that kept her without footwear, Oleander was made to house that fashion. "I'll show you."

And he did, turning them abruptly outward. The blades would yield to her soles the way the mats of her childhood in the home had not. Riches of gold could become nature's riches. His hand would be on her naked back, through her dancing hair, fingers counting the stacked skeletal ridges, as though this pass-time was the reason for the back-bare design. He'd even connect those low dimples with a line with his finger, but never dip lower than the cut of the fabric. A low hum, as his heart lightened, the satchel bouncing on his other side. He took her by the bushes, their gatherings unnatural, but symmetric to the tamed world created to go along with the mixture of timeless and new that was this place. He let her have the berries if she wanted, and helped her pluck some fat heads off their stems, if she looked at them long. He'd place those blooms in the ribbon of her present, even.

And then, if she was distracted, even if she was not, he'd have them by the entrance of the big labyrinth. He stopped to call her attention to this fact, and she saw that the grass did not continue into the green a blue speckled world of corridors, since its floor, too, was made out rose vines, crowded with thorns. "Oh, don't worry your lovely feet." he assured her, and would pull her off the ground. "There is a perfect place inside to open your gift."

And then she would discover he was a gentle, hasty dancer to a louder hum, the same that he'd been hinting throughout the walk. He would enter the labyrinth, spinning her and sometimes tossing her, but never letting her touch the spikes that couldn't best his shoes. It could be whimsical, and invite the kind of laughter that goes beyond your control, that becomes unflattering and rises from your stomach, or it could be worrisome, moving with his elegance in a dizzying world, being spun to disorient. Or it could be both those things, the former first, and the latter finally, when inside was just that, another place completely. Eventually, there would be a black rock scene, polished, with a statue and a sharp prop in the middle. He set her down on the beginning of the scene.

Her likeness, shorter hair crashing up, forever in that motion, in stone. A spear, of some kind, shooting up from the scene floor to enter through her mid back, and sprout again through the front of her throat. Naked, in flight. Ophelia could have time to examine or ask about it. It was Ansa, of course. And then, with a voice that was harder than the stone, he'd demand Ophelia dress her. It would be clear that the exposed back of her dress was not for his petting, but to work around the design of this stone twin. He would tug at her kindness at first, it would sound less than convincing, that he wanted modesty for the carved sister, and then he would simply demand. He assured her she would have something to put on in the box.

After he'd enjoyed whatever display Ophelia offered, which would inevitably leave her naked herself, he would let her open the box. A pair of ballet shoes, with heels running along the sole, same length, that would force her to simply walk on her toes or not at all. Laid out on a bed of lace. He would lift that lace, and let her know it was two strips of it. After he'd helped her on with the shoes, she would like to wear something, wouldn't she, he insisted, he'd proceed to bind her wrists behind her back with the first strip, and then blindfold her with the other.

The game was simple as it was horrible.

"And now, sister dear, you will find your way out of this place." With it's cutting floor and its stabbing walls. "and you can call on me for guidance." A gentle lift, on impossible shoes she'd never learned, and she would be off the safety of the stage, heels and toes wedged into the thorny path. How far in, she couldn't know. He would walk with her, of course, and talk to her sometimes, but never with directions. It was to hear her sweet voice call for him, partially, to see if she'd develop something toward him out of it, but also to see her scratched up and fall. The thorns produced a natural disinfectant, which had been his demand, but also left a rather humming sting, also.

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Re: Ash and Roar
« Reply #19 on: July 04, 2016, 07:26:50 am »
Ophelia sucked in her lower lip and it was a deeper pink when she set it free. “No human is perfect.” She said reasonably. “I think there are things here that might spoil me and I suppose…” she trailed off and, for a moment, traced her fingers across her side where her ribs still ached and had turned into a flowering bouquet of mottled yellow and blue. “Punishment comes to those who have sinned, so,” Ophelia tapped her palms against her cheeks and breathed quick. Best to move on from that.

She did not linger on the box for long and it was out of some mistrust for the things Kvell might count as gifts. The items inside had sounded like they had carried at least some substantial body and that was worrisome. Beyond whatever growing hand-shy sensibilities she might have, Ophelia had found the desserts at Oleander Manor without flaw. The spread of sweets available now seemed no less wonderful. She shrugged at him as he brought a small tart toward her, balanced on her knuckles. “I don’t think I have very much to hide.” She said. She had not considered fully what she might have to hide from him, because she had not conceived entirely what he might like left bare.

Ophelia took the tart with an efficient obedience that said she’d found their rhythm and was willing to walk it for these pleasures. Little gasp and a wriggle in her seat. He was right to find her transparent. She gravitated toward things covered in powdered sugar or brightened with fruit. Light and puffed things. Chocolate was a garnish, not a staple, and pretty shapes seemed to matter as much as flavor. When he played his trick on her, again, he placed it well between a cream puff and some small strawberry cake. Surprise on her face, as if it were an entirely new prank, and then the same kind of betrayal in the wide brown eyes. That expression shifted to something harder to read when he did not withdraw the digit.

Soft lips parted, unintentionally inviting when she did not overtly reject him. There were so many things to teach Ophelia, which Ansa had taken to with a natural devilishness. This trick would make Ansa sing. When Kvell’s thumb did retreat, slick with the smooth of her tongue, she was silent and blushing with only a soft and rushing pant that was as much in the rise and fall of her startled chest as it was from her small mouth. She’d not broken his gaze, but let it drop then. Ophelia was considerably muted for the remainder of their tea, though she did cautiously continue to accept what morsels he chose to offer.

She didn’t speak when he assured her of the softness of the grass, nodding and allowing him to lead her along. Ophelia was a bit frightened, he would surely be able to tell, but it was different from yesterday’s contract. This was the fear of an overwhelming newness. Of not knowing what to do with herself as much as she did not know what to do with him.

Their walk outdoors seemed to put her at ease again, at least enough to smile for him and find the fruiting and flowering plants interesting. She didn’t complain over his hand on her back, though it was hard to say whether she particularly appreciated it. He had bathed her last night, after all. Last night, though, his fingers had not raised little shivers. She even seemed a small bit disappointed when they reached the mouth of the labyrinth because, though she could not have said what precisely, she understood Kvell had plans for this place. Ophelia was learning to be wary of anything Kvell had spent time to plan. Her bruised ribs reminded her of that distinctly.

Ophelia gasped when he scooped her up, curling in close when he plunged them both into the thorny maze. He might feel her heart, fluttering quick, as he whirled them in toward his special place. She giggled nervously when she understood he was practiced and held tighter to him the deeper they went into the labyrinth. She stumbled just so, when he finally put her down, dizzy from his dance. She was still giggling, high and tense, when she rubbed her eyes to push away the whirling whimsy. That laughter died quickly to open and rounded lips when she was able to digest the statue there. It was as frightening and angelic as Ansa’s leather-bound body had been. More eerie, though, because the sculpture could as easily have been her as it was her departed sister.

“Sir?” her voice sounded impossibly small in the face of his demand. She looked back at him and hoped he would laugh and tell her it was a jest, the way his fingertip on her tongue had been. His expression made it clear he was not. She felt shot with cold, some metaphorical kinship placed with the spear-shorn statue. Hesitantly, she removed her bonnet first. Her hair fell free of the ribbon as she slipped the hat off. Ophelia took careful steps toward the stone angel and tied on the cap. She looked back at Kvell and felt her heart drop when she saw that she had not misunderstood.

Ophelia resisted removing her dress and insisted that Kvell was being unreasonable to wish modesty on stone and shame for her own flesh. He was unmoved, though, and there was less play in the instruction the more she appealed. When the set of his mouth was frightening enough, she reminded herself he had seen all of her already and miserably pulled the dress down around her waist.

Fair dove that she was, her embarrassment painted itself wherever her blood burned brightest. Blossoming mosaic of flushing rose laced her chest and the slim shoulders. He would see then the way her fragile canvas had taken to his contract over the evening. It was good that he had insisted on her bath or surely the damage would have been much worse. Nonetheless, she was a watercolor of twilight hues and bloody dark wells. The sky blue ink seemed shimmering bright on that backdrop. The letters had set sharply, but her skin was an angry stretch over aching ribs. It might have been at least a small bit impressive that she had looked so chipper in the tea room.

She hid herself as best as she could beneath the long falls of her hair, struggling to maintain that tiny measure of cover for herself as she went to her tiptoes to pull the dress onto the dark stone statue. When she was done and turned back to Kvell, her eyes were bright with threatening tears. Ophelia was easy to please and easy to hurt. She hugged herself low across her hips to guard the softness at the apex of her thighs.

When he opened the box, she let out a tiny sob because the shoes were beautiful and awful and there was no real clothing there for her. “Please,” she said to him, but had no request to hang on the end of that plea. Please stop. Please let her have the dress back. Please stop building her hope up and shattering it over again. Please don’t look. If her mouth suggested some frail protest, her body offered none and she held back her tears with shivering sniffles while he helped her with the shoes.

Her cheeks were glistening wet when he had finished binding her wrists. Strangled whimpers broke her lips when he blindfolded her. Kvell issued her the rules of his game and she began to sob, teetering when he put her on her toes off the safe stage. Without her hands free to balance she stumbled forward quickly and cried out when she fell immediately to her knees. Fine flesh, quick to bleed. Her breath came quick and panicked and she did not stand, at first. A long silence above her stifled crying and yelps when she tried to move and felt the thorns dig hard into her legs.

“Please help me, Sir.” She mewled when she had finally gathered her wits and slowed her breathing. If he was good to her and helped her back onto the preposterous edge of her shoes, she would begin forward cautiously. Ophelia was lucky that there was at least a small path forward, but less so in that it dead-ended only a few yards ahead. Just as she gained a bit of confidence on her precarious and painful path, she found the thorny barrier with her chest and cheek. A sharp yelp and she toppled and stumbled back, catching herself in an unladylike splay, hunched forward. The first awkward steps of a miserable little fawn. She turned left when she had regained her balance and found more thorns, which made her cry again, but persisted and took the right to continue her way on. “Please tell me where to go.” She begged quietly, but found Kvell unwilling to give her directions for whatever other conversation he would provide. Her cheeks were wet with small upwells of blood and her tears.

Ophelia did realize he wasn’t too far from her, ever, and took quickly to asking him to call her. Painfully slowly, she would make her way toward the sound of his voice. She stumbled often and fell almost as many times. It had not taken them too long to reach Ansa’s statue. It felt as if it hours had passed since she had begun the thorny weave back out of the labyrinth. She realized, as well, that Kvell might well be leading her in hopeless circles, but she did not run into the labyrinth’s walls if she followed his voice.

She was not infinitely patient, nor infinitely able to endure the abuse of the rose thorns, though. Ansa would have charged forward and laughed when she fell. She would have gone on so that Kvell would be forced to scold and chase her and take her out of the garden before she hurt herself too deeply, only to be punished for her rashness in leather straps and steel rings. But Ansa’s wild mind had not let her grow up sweet and soft. Ophelia was only on her second day with Kvell’s leash.

“Kvell?” Ophelia breathed, sitting splayed on the thorns after another spill. She had not picked herself back up. “Kvell, may I touch you?” she asked him. “I can’t find my way. I need help.” Ophelia admitted. She was shivering, though the day was mild. She licked her lips, which had found cuts as well. Martyr in lace, begging for the hand of her Demon. 

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Re: Ash and Roar
« Reply #20 on: July 05, 2016, 07:17:23 am »
He nodded when she said Oleander contained elements that would get wrapped up in her, inside her, and rot her a little. How adorable, with her hands framing her face, shielding against the implications she figured out herself. Would she ever know her punishments weren’t for her wrongs? It would simply be his sin not to punish someone like her. Her sin could be that, then, that she made sinners out of others. “Some people find reward in punishment, Ophelia.” And she would learn about it, if not be of it, before her trials here were over. He would find her loveliness and its role as a catalyst for his own sin to be more potent than expected, when he had to cut short his enjoyment of her obvious suspicion at the gift - good instinct – and her glowing enthusiasm for the sweets, as she accepted his caress onto her tongue, and kept her head in place for the continued attention.

A delicious thing, to be tasted by her, and he would derive what pleasure that was his from it. Nobody taught her, she’d not even taught herself, to look into his eyes when he lightly tended to her slick muscle, with her breath roiling over his nail. So innocent, though the outward petals were so purposeful. She was discovering something also, wasn’t she? Texture over flavor. Cadence over batter. The magic of other’s skin. He curled three fingers under her chin, pressing softly up, toying with the image of pulling at her jaw. It would look perfectly possessive. But he’d rather encourage this kind of exploration. He smiled a ‘go ahead’ back at her eyes, as though the thumb would give her something, if she was good.

They were friends then, or in courtship, even, when they took the smooth path, and then the grass. He indulged her and let her unfurl any way she would. This was the kind of thing the sisters wanted for her, surely. He had no trouble humoring such notions, because they elevated her to something soft, so he could apply something sharp. He felt a bit of that love however, the picnic, parasol kind, the kind that smiled without fangs, when he danced her through the amethyst and sapphire lined corridors. Her heart, his rhythm. But that love was far from Ansa. That love he could have and leave. He was not addicted to it.

She might grow to feel differently toward it too, as she gave to him such a breathtaking descent of her spirit, from where it had been, looking up on the forever Ansa, always being slain. He shivered with dark delight to see her robbed of the gentle moment, after she'd rubbed her eyes, child-like. The knot in his stomach that was sympathy, even guilt, was also welcome, it had to be. “It fits her just right.” He said about the bonnet, and closed his arms, and walked closer, but not too close. If they were too intimate, he would be participating, and she might have some strength from that. She needed to know she was being observed, and truly made to undress alone, in front of eyes. Her nakedness had been kind, so far, for good purposes. He wanted to claim it back, and season her in the reality of it.

When she could call on no leniency, she had to undress. The defeat was drawing on her, and the embarrassed burn welling up was dessert. He thought she was theatrical, so perfectly mortified. His writings were settling on her, in visceral mayhem. Would she faint if she abused her there? Laughter at her attempt to dress in the rosy strands, and her hands only drew more attention when they tried to cover what he'd almost washed, yesterday. He wanted to tell her that everything she did, everything she could ever be, would always draw her toward these things by his hand. She could squirm and try to hide behind her shoulder all she wanted. She couldn't escape herself.

She'd dressed Ansa carefully, better than needed, and he was more than willing to offer her what she'd been promised. The lid came off slower than the paper, so he could save the sob the shoes received. She gave her one word plea, and he listened without complying. Dark eyes glistened with a promise of other things, though. She was no task to bind, no jabs or kicking, and he thought it was a delightful contrast.

When she fell her first time, he reached out, not to stay her, but to run his fingers over her arm and back as she placed herself on her knees, watering the thorns just slightly. He wanted to be part of that failing stumble. He did help her up, and smelt the blindfold and her temple at the same time, before letting her go. Would she understand that he gave her more gentleness when she was hurt? He walked quietly by her, to the sadistic wall that wanted to swallow her, but only managed to almost fell her again. He hooked his arm around her waist and slid it away from her, a cruel reward for having remained standing, elegant or not.

An inward breath, predatory, when she asked for help. How could he resist. With hands on his back, he walked ahead, and would call on her with a chastising voice, as though she should know better. She did not have Ansa's madness in the maze. The game had never been so-- honest as it was with Ophelia. He though he could watch the walls and floor slowly eat her all his life. But she would not last forever only because he wanted. When she sat and asked, he would come, pristine in his blues like the blues of the roses. If a lamb calls, the wolf comes.

He easily tapped the inside of her foot to part her poor legs further, that he could stand between them, looking down. The leather tips were courting the insides of her thighs, carelessly close to that apex. When she saw the spreads at breakfast, was this what she beheld? Because then he could have understood her hungry awe. She was sweating blood, or had been caught in a shower of it, bound by lace, undone by lace. He liked the curtain of crimson off one collarbone, that laid over one round orb, flirty in the slight cold. Would she ever stop this seduction?

Kvell leaned down to take her chin, and lift it. Her mouth had lashes of cuts around it, like she'd wanted to eat the roses. Silly girl and her appetite. He intended to feed her again. "I'll touch you first, then." he said before kissing her lower pout. A gentle peck, her first. She should be starving for tender, now. It was part of the deprivation. He kissed the upper, too, and then pressed his against both. With the shadow of the real reserve of his desire, he applied more pressure, and wandered the hand to the back of her head, in the hair that had taken on some blue blades, and some twigs. He gasped, imitating her when he unlocked from the little love they'd shared. And that would be it. The full price of his help.

And she would be mistaken to believe it. He pulled her head into him, the tug inevitably dragging her a small bit on the razor floor, until the immaculate tip of a perfect shoe touched her at the middle of her garden of softness. Modest girl, from the home. He kissed her harder, if a kiss it could be. Sometimes there were teeth, and almost always tongue. Rarely oxygen. He ate at her harshly, the kind of kiss found in the throes of hateful, naked revenge, that left both exhausted but satisfied. He took her like this until there was smooth elixir down her chin. Thick saliva and light blood, down her sternum. He pulled himself away and tossed her head back a bit as he stood, wiping life and spittle off his jaw. Her first real kiss.

Without effort, he moved his shoe from her privacy, and went behind her to undo the lace at her wrists, tying it loosely around her throat, instead. He helped her up, and stood, waiting for her to feel for him, and find him. He knew the labyrinth perfectly, and it had other clearings she'd meet, but not today. In this world, he was everything she could have or hate. All of Oleander, with the masks and the quiet, was designed so. Perhaps that was how the home had hoped to funnel the orphans toward prayer, as well. But he didn't start walking immediately. He let her touch him, have that little mercy. Something steady when she was swaying in the dark was a gift. If she embraced him and bloodied his shirt and jacket, he wouldn't say anything.

Then he would lead her, walk slowly but unstoppable. Even she would eventually learn the shoes, at this guiding pace. He took the blindfold off, and hung that around her neck too, when they were out of the mouth of the maze. The day would be blinding, almost the same as the cover for her eyes, at first, and then he'd stand there. At the end of the tortures, there'd always be him. He kissed his doll with the ragged hair on her forehead, as though she'd done good, and she had. He didn't allow her to take off the shoes, but she could hold his hand for balance or comfort.

He would listen to her complaints, or musings, or silence as they walked the house toward the pretty infirmary. No bath this time, only dabs of of liquid medicine, and then a broken up suit of bandages. The shoes could finally come off. He seemed content, and without secrets.

"What would you like to do, the rest of the day, Ophelia? I have other games, but you seem all played out." he asked the girl on the resting bed.

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Re: Ash and Roar
« Reply #21 on: July 06, 2016, 10:46:37 pm »
She was glad when he came, though he’d been the one to put her on this mad game. In her hopeless, she was eager to please for the reward of being lead out. Ophelia would have reached out to hold fast to his legs when he stood between hers, if she’d been unbound. Instead, she played compliant, almost eager, when he brought his fingers against her chin.

His kiss was soft and opposed the sting of rose-laid cuts. He shoulders slumped. Another little peck, and she would have been mortified if she’d known him as her brother. Instead, it felt natural that her heart should flutter. A little hope for the end of this maze and a sparked desire for whatever tender the cold man might have. His capacity for cruelty was fresh. She wanted to drown it in convictions of a better nature.

When gentle gave way to a sort of violation she’d not experienced before, it was a better novelty than others he’d offered. Ophelia mewled against his mouth, lips spread like too much invitation. He pulled her and she felt his friction spiral heat up through her core. It was better than thorns, which were her alternative. She flushed, the way Ansa would flush after torturous hours, with the mere suggestion of intimacies she’d guarded her sweetness against. Good girl, dutiful girl, eager to serve God and the other orphans. Eager to serve Kvell now, if it set her free. There were so very many freedom’s she’d yet to taste.

His tongue, like his thumb, on her slick pink and she swayed like a branch in a storm. His current pulled her and whatever innocence down some new and provocative spiral. This sort of thing, in and of itself, should not have been so very suggestive. Teenage girls sneaking off behind High School bleachers had done similar or worse. But there was her blood and her nakedness and some holier-than-thou virginity of self that transformed it. A secret intimacy just for her. She leaned into him, because he touched her with thorns that didn’t hurt, and even his teeth were a comfort because she could expect them. Ophelia tried him, tasting him back, and learned a new desire. Perhaps she understood some small shade of his possessiveness and how it had captured Ansa.

A different sound vibrated in her throat, something from the night before, that reflexive satisfaction with sweets catapulted against his lips. She was panting when he tossed her away. “Sir,” she mumbled, when he moved away from her. When he freed her wrists, she looked for him immediately, fingers grasping for his arm. She hadn’t expected the blindfold to be removed and he didn’t. A small struggle to her feet, easier when she could lean on him, and buried herself against his arm. There was a need to be gone from this endless maze of sharp and jagged that replaced whatever shame she’d worn earlier.

Perhaps she should have been upset for being drawn into his labyrinth to begin with. To be upset for being thrust into this game. But she was too grateful for his assistance, then, to consider it so far. If he listened carefully, he might hear her praying as he led her slowly out of the maze. Prayers for forgiveness, mostly. Whether it was because she had been punished or because she felt she ought to be was hard to say; her entreating was jumbled with sighs. Finally, they stopped and he pulled her blindfold down. Something she could have attempted on her own if she’d not been clinging so tightly to him. “Thank you,” she breathed when she’d blinked her gaze into focus. The sun said she’d not been in the maze nearly as long as it had felt.

Half way back to the manor, on their way to the infirmary, she seemed to have sorted her thoughts. Extracted from that claustrophobic maze made frightening in the dark, Ophelia began to reconcile the turn of events. “That was really scary.” She said quietly. “Why did you do it?” she asked. Ansa loved cruelty for cruelty’s sake. It was unfiltered affection, so it was pure. Ophelia had yet to embrace such a concept. Each step was painful, the tedious shoes amplifying the stiffness of all her little cuts drying thin black lines on her pale skin. Her bruised ribs, too, look a bit worse for the morning’s activities.

“Did you kiss Ansa like that, also?”

She tried to hide behind him when they reached the house and the impassive eyes of the servants there. “May I get dressed?” she asked him, modesty pressing more than her hurts with the threat of strange stares. The answer was to the negative, at least until she’d been brought to the infirmary and set on a bed there. He was methodical with tending to her, but she thought she would have liked another bath.

Lying there, naked, her expression was perplexed when he continued on so casually. What would she like to do, he asked her, as if they’d just been out for a morning stroll. “Games?” she echoed, as if she couldn’t fathom, but pressed her lips shut quickly for fear of having submitted to new and strange tortures. “Where is Nathan?” she asked, when she wasn’t sure what a safe answer would be. Perhaps it had been a poor choice, asking for another man. But surely the butler might give her a clue as to what was safe.

If he didn't find her request offensive, she would ask the butler for clothes. Whether it was Kvell or the servant that provided them, she wouldn't particularly care. Ophelia simply wanted to be covered. She shivered, as if to emphasize the need. If it had been ill-trodden ground, she'd be sure to recognize her mistake quickly. What she couldn't know was the price of repentance.

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Re: Ash and Roar
« Reply #22 on: July 07, 2016, 07:51:03 pm »
Her inexperienced tasted well, with her turning into his lips like a light-starved  thing toward a wound in the clouds. That little sympathy for her simplicity was traded for a spreading hunger, a hollow, his always-infection, when her complicity came as a response to his assertion, against, inside. This kind of result had been harder and harder to goad out of Ansa, perhaps her downfall, and here it was, some polished pearl, growing wild without a shell. He read it though, and knew something about her that she could not. No teeth, no breath trying to solidify in the gullet and expel him. She was willing because the human body was willing, before Ansa had taught hers rebellion, opposition. He sighed into her mewling sounds, surprised, greedy. Nothing like the sister that had gone.

He was a bit enamored by her, her quiet, unaware seduction, when she clung to him. He’d not had this before, and not known that he wanted it. Perhaps this was at the end of his desire, to rip away the things bolted to the soul by adolescence and hardening experiences for the heart, so someone would cling honestly to him, and need him like an anchor. So he lead his attached sister, walking in rhythm with her spoken song. It only acted to make her holier, the most exquisite sleeve he’d worn. He wondered if the heartbreak of loss, it’s physical punishment, had been to trade for this, then, a flesh doll that needed so little to give her everything.

“Because you loved it.” He said. It had become true, hadn’t it? “You liked to go through the trial, and you liked that I was there in the end.” Had she known she prayed for him, on her knees, rose needles carrying her? Would she appreciate the switch of symmetry? He wanted that title, to her. “It was the most you’ve felt.” It was impossible that he was wrong. And if he was, there was no forgiveness for the home she’d come from, and he would burn it. He grinned with the side of his face she couldn’t see when she mentioned her sister, and what affection he’d done to her.

“What should I answer to ease you?” he asked when she started to discover her nudity, with the rise of the mansion before them, and the masked men and women. “Yes, every day, that I am leagues farther into this than you? Because that would be true. Doesn’t that affect your heart a little, to hear that?” A light imprint of his upper incisors onto his lower lip when he reconsidered. “Or that I tried to kiss Ansa like that, and that my heart was never as beaconed as it was now, when I had you in the same way? Does that swell your heart, instead?” he grew the silence as a gift. I might feel like all the gifts she’d gotten so far, sweet and then hard. “Because it might be so, too.” He didn’t know. “Did you enjoy being kissed like that, Ophelia?” but he knew that, at least. “Because you were making sounds as though you were back at the table, eating sticky sweets for the first time.”

She may not get dressed. If he did let her have clothes, then she wouldn’t  be so inclined to his arm, and he needed to tend to her hurt. He offered a kiss on her hair, instead, and continued on.

In the room where he’d put Ansa together, sometimes saved her life, he thought Ophelia’s blood trails, the ones still moist, took on ruby sheen from the windows. She looked like the pretties replica, then, denied skin with onyx and ruby inlays, and a patch of somber bruising beneath deep text, because surely she could not be this lovely and remain a person. And then that flighty enjoyment, smoothening his forehead, became a few creases that escaped her light. “Games, then.” He teased. But he had some mercy for her, bought by her perfect responses to the rose test, and let it stretch on the white of his eyes, that perhaps she didn’t need to worry. His little almost-human, wrapped here and there in gauze.

But the little girl in the large mansion with the larger ego by her side spent it all before she could enjoy it. Nathan was around the corner, because he’d not been told to avoid them, in the house. When the butler moved to turn around the frame of the door, and her eyes were at the ceiling, Kvell lifted his arm, hand rigid to let it be known Nathan was not welcome. The Brandston man retreated quick, before Ophelia could see. Instead there’d only be her bother, smiling gently, with the shards from his shattered good mood at the bottom of his stomach. The hand became pliable as it touched her cheekbone, the one covered. He’d made sure to wrap one of her eyes too, because he liked the aestetchics. She only really needed the rest of the embalming ritual to be well on her way to last forever, in a tomb. The low belt, gauze too, could provide some modesty for her, and her rounds were well wound up in his wrapping art. He’d done the same to the other rosy haired girl.

“He is in your room.” And she’d never heard his voice so sugary before. He was deft at imitating the faithful prince. “Let’s go see him. He’s been waiting for you. I’m so sorry for hurting you like this. Come.” He helped her up, without her new shoes. After looking her up and down, he threw his hands up. How silly of him to want her to walk by herself. Of course he took her in his arms, his bandaged doll, and whisked her toward the chambers she knew the best. “Things will be better from now on.” He said with laughter that had none of the audible hooks and nails that grated his throat as her performed. Ansa hurt him like this sometimes, but it was in her nature, it was play, mostly. Ophelia – sweet, adorable, wretched, traitorous, ungrateful Ophelia – did not have such vile. She had honesty. And that was worse.

His shoes pushed her door open with such force that it swung back on its hinges and closed on his own, once he’d danced over the threshold on skilled but stiff legs. His arms were suddenly not so familiar with her body, stone-like. “Oh. It seems your Nathan is not here.” He said with some mock disappointment, the veil thinner but not yet abandoned. He put her down on the bed without romance, but kept the drop still civil. “You should look for him, Ophelia.” He said and turned his head this and that way, hands behind his back clenching to give him strength to uphold the act. “Perhaps in here.” And he walked quickly over to the cabined in the corner. The gyros opened for his expert fiddling, and one of the doors obscured as he opened it and reached in. “No. No rooster. No gentle man or gentleman or servant or young father figure for you.” He said, aghast, as he took something out, that hung, black in his hand as he returned toward her. He put no pretend in his stride now, and that would be an unsettling contrast to his face, still masked with such pretend.

“Maybe you should call for him.” He suggested, voice crackling, if she didn’t already know. “He’s far though, I think. Better make it loud, Ophelia.” Spitting words, grown jaw from the tension of speaking through teeth. There he was. The Kvell that Kvell felt. He took her legs this time, and welcomed her squirming, Ansa had kicked him hard when this girl wouldn’t. Eventually she would be belly down, ankles in leather, legs spread and hooked by rings to the rings of the bed board. “This is not even a game.” He said with some distaste and pulled at her bandage belt with even less romance than he’d dropped her with. He rear exposed to the ceiling. Then he took off his own belt. “Call him, Ophelia.” He encouraged before the first crack laid a mark. He would usually have more control for Ansa. Why was Ophelia so infuriating when she was honest? Why did it make him feel weak?

On the back of her thighs, and on her back and shoulder blades too, welts radiating from the center line of her spine. Maybe he’d make her angel wings. It took something out of him when he pushed her hair up, tied it in a knot on her scalp, and whipped the back of her neck. The trained hands still tried to make it sweet, burning, but how could he be controlled when he felt so angry? She better not cry so much into the sheets that she didn’t repeat and sing what he wanted to hear. Nathan would be just outside, to listen in agony at his name, too. But the rooster, who knew there were worst things in the cabinet for Ophelia’s health, would be more worried by Kvell’s voice. It was harder than Ansa might have heard. Kvell didn’t let Ophelia have her arms out, punishing them with the belt if she reached. She could have them underneath herself and no further. “Why aren’t you singing, Ophelia? He’ll come if you’re sweeter.”

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Re: Ash and Roar
« Reply #23 on: July 09, 2016, 04:47:36 am »
Ophelia stared at him oddly when he asked her. “I don’t know if I enjoyed it.” She said to him. “I’m your sister, aren’t I?” she asked. “There was a lot about that garden I shouldn’t have enjoyed.” She said, though she did not confirm she hadn’t enjoyed it. Ophelia was not very good at lying and hadn’t a mind to try, either. She was confused, because she was in pain and he had frightened her, but there was a heat between her hips when she remembered the way he had felt when he’d stood between her legs and brought her the help she’d so desperately asked for. He had saved her, even if he’d cast her into that trial to begin with. She didn’t know what to make of that sort of compassion or the taste of his tongue.

She did not have all too much time to sort those perplexities out, once they had reached the infirmary. Ophelia might not have understood her own blunder, but Lord of the manor most certainly had. She’d be made to grasp it quickly, of course.

Ansa had never played well into these ruses, when they came up. She had known Kvell to well and, even if she had not, she had been too stubborn and paranoid to follow him willingly toward just about any end. If she were punished for her insufferable contrariness, it only emboldened her further. Ophelia was a different bird, he already knew. She did not disappoint now, though, either.

“Okay.” She agreed with him. “Thank you.” Ophelia said, both for covering her with the bandages and giving her the butler’s whereabouts. Surely, if he were in her room, that meant she would be allowed to dress also. Perhaps the rooster had even brought her a set of clothes to wear for the afternoon. Maybe Kvell had planned it with him in advance. A gentler soul might have reconsidered their fury with the dutiful way she made to follow him, limping toward him like he had all the loyalty her heart could offer. She even smiled at him, when he picked her up. Thanked him again.

Kvell had strange games, she thought, but he had yet to let her despair. He came when she called and fed her sweets. He brought her presents, even if they hurt, and he held her like a precious doll. He had spilt her blood to leave his mark, but the very words entreated her to stay. Ophelia thought she must be playing his games wrong. Surely, this man that bandaged and bathed her with such care must only be cruel when he was forced. It must be her fault. Ansa, she thought, must have been much better. He was still grieving and this was why he tortured her at one turn and loved her at another. He was training her to be a good sister.

“It’s okay. It hurt, but you helped me. I’m sure you didn’t mean it any more than I deserved. I’m sorry I don’t know how to be your sister.” Surely not, if he’d kissed Ansa the way he’d kissed her. She’d never have conceived of such behavior, let alone with her kin. The Sisters would have found it scandalous. It troubled her that she didn’t know what he expected of her, but she reached up to touch his cheek as reassurance that she would do her best.

Miserable girl. She looked so earnestly confused when he opened her door and she found the room empty. A sudden and chilly realization when his voice cracked hard. She had done something wrong again. “Oh.” She said, and her lips remained parted in some sweet mortification. “Oh, I’m sorry I—“ she meant to say that she’d not meant to imply she preferred the butler’s company, though she’d have been lying if she didn’t admit his less volatile nature was more restful than the Oleander prince’s tempestuous shifts.

Ophelia was given no such luxury of explanation, and she scrambled as far away from him on the bed as she could when he began his mocking search of her quarters for the rooster she understood, clearly, was not to be found. “Sir, it’s really okay, we don’t need to find him.” Like a child, hoping to assuage an angered parent, she bargained with patience that was not hers to barter. “I’m sorry!” she shrieked when came at her and took her by the ankles. She tried to pull away from him, grabbing at the plush blankets like they might give her some leverage. Tragic.

Her breath went out of her when he put her on her stomach, bandages rubbing roughly against her tender cut skin when she struggled. She was bound deftly and she was terrified by his skill, stringing her as easily as he had the night before by her opposite limbs. If she’d been pained by the friction of her bandages, she was more distressed when he removed those he’d placed for her modesty. “Please stop, I’m so sorry. Please forgive me.” Ophelia was whimpering, crying already because she knew he had the capacity to hurt her. It is more frightening when it is so far within the realm of possibility.

When the blows fell she continued to appeal, sobbing and begging him to forgive her. It was not what he asked, though, and she bit down on the pillow beneath her face in torment. To say what he asked was to invite him to hate her more, she knew, but to disobey was simply that. Ophelia lost count of his lashes before her silent weeping broke. “Mr. Brandston,” she whispered, and it was not nearly enough to satisfy his want for singing.

She couldn’t know how many times she would whimper and call the rooster’s name before it was loud enough that he would hear her on the other side of the door. Surely Kvell would have heard the aching syllables again and again before they had peaked at a volume he could catch. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, Nathan, please,” Ophelia’s voice was shaking and sincere. She tried twice to reach out, searching for Kvell himself, maybe, and was quickly rebuffed so she curled her fists beneath her chest.

Ophelia would never say the butler’s name again, if Kvell asked. She’d never look at another man, either, if he demanded it. The belt hurt but the fury hurt more. His games seemed like sweetness, now. A boy teasing a girl he fancied, even. It wasn’t that the lashes were so incredibly severe, even, that she could not have endured it for some time. His voice cut, though, and she was frightened every time she complied and called Nathan’s name. Perhaps she feared that he was, even now, restraining himself and she did not know what might break it. She wished she were back in the Labyrinth. At least, then, it was Kvell’s name she’d been allowed to call and he so very clearly held every string of her fate here.   

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Re: Ash and Roar
« Reply #24 on: July 10, 2016, 01:04:19 am »
The joy of hearing little hints in her answers about the garden wasn't enough to have built her immunity toward his new plans, of course. But they were saved for later, whether he acknowledged it or not, as the slight burned him further. Through the red that he saw, that was risen from the black that he felt, he would have wanted to enjoy her little naiveties. It would be his puffy pastries with berries, if he wasn't already on a mission. He dedicated small, dramatic laughter at it, though, to encourage her, and lull her further.

It was not as rhythmic as it had been in the labyrinth, when he took her to the room after having heard her forgiveness for everything he'd done. Truly, Ophelia was a saint. It was a fact he didn't know what to do with, in his burn, which made it hard for him to breathe. Perhaps for a smaller crime, like clawing out his eyes or biting off his ear, it would have been enough to buy her his forgiveness. But even when she trusted him to travel them to her room again, and when she came inside, he was too slighted to forget.

He could enjoy her realization well, be a glutton about it, when she pleaded on the bed. It should have stacked her lovelies high enough for him to finally hold her, and comfort her to say it was quite fine, but he was not of such a silk soul, today. Such a scrumptious little girl, running around on her bed as though it was her kingdom, and he was some big troll coming to it. Her words did not attach to his ears then, either, and she would find herself as she would, with her eyes downward, and her shame toward the ceiling.

Perhaps he had forgiven her, for guilt of his inelegant lashings, by the time she gave the name. It was the only outcome, really. But he became further mad, upon hearing her say what he wanted. It was his plan. A fire having others pass the fuel. Her flesh velted the way he knew it would, the only acceptable way a prime toy should. Kvell and his black eyes took her in, her hands hiding after what he'd taught them, a growing map of marks on her already dotted skin. Even as property this was not sound treatment. So he stayed his hand, but it was at a crucial angel, and the belt lashed her louder. And the guilt fueled the rest of the session. Who was she to make him feel guilty for dealing that which was deserved?

But she said the name in a volume he had to acknowledge, at last. His sweet, long lost Ophelia. When she did, he pulled that belt away from it's striking intention, the lash landing and wrapping around his other arm, a skilled stop, because he was a practiced dealer. He breathed with the strain of his anger. Inside him it tried to wring free from the guilt webbing through it. Ansa had never injected such things into his heart. Hers were always clean things. He knew what to do, where to hurt. "Good." he said, no conviction, no adherence.

He didn't have the plan on what to do next. This morning he had. Educate the new girl. Give her picturesque torment because the soul can see its shell, and then take her on culinary wanderings. Now he was by her bed, Ansa's bed, in a room filling with the scent of her tears. It registered as heat, from her breath, and a kind of saturation. He was good at remembering this scent, of emanating distress that he'd caused. The belt hung over the back of his neck, and he clasped the ends hard, looking aristocratic, breathing barbarian, through his polished teeth. She cried and it had been sweet before, but it wasn't now. Or it could be, if he filtered away his part in it. Her fault that she cried so well. She would notice how his chest inflated more for each take. Something building that didn't want to grow.

"Well, sorry you are." was all that he could find, the dizzy from wrath shrinking his sight with darkness. Funny how too much oxygen feels like so much choking. He was bustling with something, if her eyes weren't drowning too deep to see. He parted his mouth wide, that predatory trap, but he shut it, biting off what he'd say next. Kvell ran out of the room and thought the wind in his wake and the open door might look like fury to her.

Nathan, who had his own suffering, followed his ward, honestly unable to keep up at first. When Kvell turned, two bends away from her room, his eyes widened with insult, and reached for the mask that had inserted itself between him and the sister that lived. "I'll go back. If she wants to talk to you, she'll have you." he said with fangs. Nathan stepped back and it made the sir growl so he wouldn't maim. "Give me the..."

"Sir! You're not playing anymore." And the mask did come off, but the butler didn't give it away. "Lady Ansa wouldn't." he tried, but there was pressure between them, the kind that precedes disasters. "Lady Ophelia didn't mean..." And knuckles wrapped twice in leather strap collided with the cheek that the mask had hid.

"Don't you lecture me on my sisters, Nathan!" Kvell said, panic and so much swirling storm through the spittle of his warning. "Don't you even say their names right now!"

"What are you going to do with the mask? Torment her further? You're not playing. You're just a raw nerve spewing poison. If you go to her with this you'll only..." but Kvell would not have it. He didn't want to know he'd be unfair and self-indulgent and weak. He didn't want to hear Nathan's perspective on what had claimed Ansa. So he ran out into the garden and screamed into the labyrinth until his hand bled around the belt and its buckle he was clutching too hard. Until he was on his knees, too, on the rose spikes, and he'd filled the corridors with his anguish.

Nathan did come to Ophelia, with a smile underneath the cut of the mask, where swelling had started. In this, they were siblings, too. She was still on her bed, of course, held there with leather and metal circles. Sweet girl. He knew where the sheets were folded, and draped one over her back. "I'm sorry, Ophelia." he said, touching the hair, which he assumed was the only spared area. "I couldn't come. Kvell would not have allowed it." He sighed and shook his head at the situation. "He's hurt, but not by you, not really." he tried. "I'll have him come by and release you before dinner." No one but Kvell was allowed to handle her restraints. Some of the gyros were clever, but the orders were simpler. Once, Ansa had been without means to move for almost a week, with the forgetful sir gone. Nathan would stay and talk to her. There had been no orders not to. "How can I soothe you?"

At night, hours after a flushed Kvell had darted in, released her, and gone out, a little feast had been made in the corridor, just outside her room. He had meant to show her the delights of uncooked meats, anyway. Kvell wore bandage on his right hand, to hide the cut. His clothes were black, as his eyes. She would have been provided the same palette. A robe, mercy for her pains, and modesty. The chipper she would be met with would be forced, but not in the way he'd deceived her before, to lead her to small ruin. Instead his shame would be palpable through the facade. If uncomfortable, it was also well intended. He didn't know he'd made her feel as though she'd wronged him. He only assumed she'd be nursing her velts, remembering his tantrum. Nathan was allowed close, since he was some kind of mascot of safety for her. it made sense to Kvell now.

"It's my favorite." he explained at the plates, once they were seated. The cuts were from pampered animals, from the sea and from farms not far. The pieces that were served thin, usually, had been cut almost translucent, as this was her introduction. "It's vulgar, I know, but it's also quite satisfying." he put a dice of red into his mouth, using chopsticks. Primal. His cheek filled as he ground the meat. Would she notice his voice was diminished from its usual flawlessness? Even the beautiful monster of Oleander Manor could not spend his voice box into blue roses and not suffer some kind of mar. He swallowed and cleared his throat.

"It's an experience." he said, the smile worn for her sake, once he'd licked of blood. He held up his hand to her chin, and pink meat, rolled around the tips of the sticks, toward her lips. Her chair was extra soft, considering. He was a bit afraid she wouldn't take the bite. He'd not wronged someone like this before, and he didn't know what an apology was in this context. Spoiled rotten, but also spoiled senseless. He wanted to go back to inventing ways to make her squirm and mewl, but couldn't, now that he had trespassed. He thought it was a loss to both of them. "Please tell me what you think. The staff doesn't like it, and neither did mother. But father and I would sometimes sneak into the kitchen at night, where the staff would have candlelight and this for us." If she looked closely, she might see the blush of anger hadn't completely died from his hue. It let him look alive, and like the boy he'd been, growing up in these corridors.

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Re: Ash and Roar
« Reply #25 on: July 10, 2016, 02:15:16 am »
Ophelia hadn’t had words for him, sniffling soft and hiding her face in the blankets. She peeked out at him once, but was quick to bury her gaze again. He did not untie her. She nodded agreement with him when he cut the silence, but found it painful from the welts on her neck. So much skin an angry red in curious patterns across her. Some language, maybe. Commandments.

When he left, she did not look after him nor see whatever turmoil he’d put himself in. She squeezed her blurry eyes shut and mouthed a prayer for salvation to the blankets. Left alone, she wept quietly and scolded herself for her faults and the things which had angered him. Ophelia’s heart was deeply troubled. God did not exact judgement until the final hour and had goodness to accept a repentant soul. Kvell was a man without such niceties. He was very present, she felt, and very frightening. She had always been a blundering girl, good-hearted but often clumsy and naïve. God did not mind these qualities, because she was His child. Kvell was her brother and made no excuses on her behalf.

She determined she had wronged him severely and hoped she had suffered enough that she had sufficiently atoned. Ophelia stored the lesson deep within her. To ask for another man on the heels of Kvell’s kindness was cruel and wrong. She would not do it again.

Just as she began to recover herself, breath coming a bit deeper and awash with a guilty calm, the door opened. It was Nathan, she realized quickly, and she struggled a bit in her bonds for fear of him drawing near. He should not be close to her because he was not Kvell. Kvell might beat her again for allowing it. She was gasping, throwing herself as far from him as she could on the bed, but stilled when he apologized. Blinking up at him with eyes some shades lighter than his master’s, she looked first confused and then distraught. She could see the start of bruising on the edges of the rooster mask and looked horrified for his hurt.

“Mr. Brandston, I’m so sorry. Did he hit you too? Was it because of me?” she asked him. Sweetling, forgetting her own aches to fuss over his as well as one could in leather straps. “It’s okay. It’s certainly not your fault. You shouldn’t have come, I’m glad you didn’t. He was very scary.” She had the look of something hunted flicker across her face. “You shouldn’t be here now, either, I think. I don’t want Sir Kvell to misunderstand. I’m okay by myself.” She tried to smile for him, and succeeded in a pathetic sort of way. Fresh tears dropping to tease the corners of those bravely upturned lips.

She ignored him then, regardless of whether the butler chose to stay or go, and curled her arms tight across her chest. After some time, she fell asleep in her bonds. Her morning had been exhausting and her afternoon more so. Ophelia looked peaceful when she slept, lips parted and soft even breaths from the weary form. Even as her mind slipped into a deep and dreamless sleep, her body began its work of announcing its many injustices. She looked like something celestial, whirling mottle of deep space blues and violets cut with red, green, and brown. Soft body, unaccustomed to this treatment, displayed plainly its need for care.

When Kvell came in to release her, she woke suddenly and found herself alone. Immediately, he would see that she was afraid, but looked intently to him. Some hope that his anger had subsided. Simple creature, staring at him mournfully and shouldering full blame for the earlier transaction. It was a wonder that Ophelia did not question the soundness of his judgment. Terrible and wonderful.

Ophelia was relieved when he left quickly, without speaking, and locked her door behind him. What had felt like an unsettling trap but a single morning before was comforting now. Kvell had been given something more impressionable than he could know yet. Ansa had not been cut of the same cloth.

When she was left alone, she went to Ansa’s desk and opened the journal there, again.

I hid from the shadows for hours today. I locked myself in the cellar and lit every candle I could find. The shadows shrank away from the light but their screaming would not stop. They want to swallow me alive, I swear it. I won’t let them, though. I’ll snuff myself out before they can take me. Kvell was extremely cross with me when I let myself out in the evening. The cellar is the one room in the house which has no lock on the outside, so he could not reach me. He says he knew I was there the entire time and was calling for me at the door. I didn’t hear him, though, so I think he’s lying to make me apologize. Maybe the screaming was just too loud, though. Either way, I won’t apologize. I don’t have to apologize to Kvell. Everyone else makes me apologize too much, as it is.

He wouldn’t see me for the rest of the afternoon. I think Nathan finally convinced him to come, because I kept pestering him to do so. He wasn’t angry anymore, when he came, which was a shame because I was. He shouldn’t have made me wait, I think. I was very mean to him, when he strung me up in the bed. I told him to kill me, but he wouldn’t do it. He hates it when I ask and tells me I shouldn’t laugh. He must know I’m not kidding, though. If anyone is going to swallow me alive, it has to be Kvell. I really won’t let anyone else.


Ophelia closed the book with a snap and shoved it into the desk drawer. How cruel. She wasn’t sure if she thought so about Ansa or Kvell. Both, perhaps. She thought she was glad to have grown up in the orphanage. Surely her spirit would not have been able to stand the way Ansa wrote of her self-destruction and the way she beckoned Kvell along with her. Even without that sentimental attachment, her heart ached for them both. Kvell must be very lonely. She would have to apologize to him again, for asking for someone else.

When she received the clothes, she slipped them on quickly and made to follow Nathan the rooster out to the dining room. The robe was long and gauzy, delectably light on her tender skin. It billowed behind her as she walked, flowing like some royalty because it was too long. She took her seat properly and folded her hands into her lap. She was not surprised when she saw no utensils set out for her. It might even have been worrisome to her if there had been.

Kvell spoke to her as if he’d never taken the belt to her at all; as if they’d simply parted ways after their journey through the rose maze. She noticed a new hoarseness to his voice, though, and did not miss the bandages on his hand. He might have noticed that she pointedly avoided acknowledging the butler’s presence, once she had entered the room. He might also have noticed that she winced whenever she turned her head and chose not to lean her back against the high seat.

Ophelia accepted the food he offered, though she looked at it with some trepidation. There was something deeply wrong about the dribble of red that slicked down her chin. She was too gentle to make it look natural if it wasn’t her own blood. She found that she didn’t hate the flavor but was not fond of the texture nor the sentiment. When he asked her for her opinion, she stared at him and wasn’t sure what to say. She was thinking before she spoke now. She had learned.

“The taste is alright. I suppose it’s silly, but somehow it seems more cruel than regular meats, though.” She said quietly, and laughed weakly at herself for the thought. She hadn’t missed the little flare left in his color. After some prolonged silence, she apologized to him again. “I’m very sorry, Sir.”

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Re: Ash and Roar
« Reply #26 on: July 10, 2016, 04:35:23 pm »
Nathan had no choice but to recognize her as an angel, accused of falling, but still with her wings and innocence, when she wore the ravaged back, but asked if he might be fine, with his little beginning swell. He shook his head for answer, so she wouldn't worry. He'd watched enough hurt by Kvell's hands to expect at least this amount, himself. He wondered, as much as he loved Kvell, and believed in him, still, if this girl, whom the family had neglected, wasn't too precious to be played with, the way the sir liked to play. "You are too good." he let her know before he left, understanding she'd decided to forget that he was there, out a loyalty Kvell had not earned.

Kvell thought the dress was the only color to eat raw things in, but it looked like mourning on Ophelia. Ansa was her vivid protest in it, ready to shed it and run, or keep it and fight. The life - distant because the owner had gone and become bits and pieces - running down her lip and chin was appealing. He fixated on it as she chewed the meat. He put cartilage in his own mouth, the sound of his grinding drowning the light bites she contributed between them. Cartilage, when it's gray, doesn't have the salt that is the novelty of taking things uncooked. For his pleasure, he leaned in, held her head still, and collected the red that split her chin. He smiled, to pay for the crimson he'd received, and leaned back.

When she answered, he understood why she couldn't possibly enjoy the meal as much as he. Cruelty was a taste, after all. His. She might never develop the tongue for it. "It does, doesn't it?" but he said it as though it might be its greatest triumph, to taste adequate, but feel cruel. "It can be a bit like eating pieces of one's own heart." he drank from the harsh wine. "It most certainly is eating pieces of someone elses." And there the pious orphan was, by her prison chambers, talking to a monster going on about eating others, butchered spirits on his breath, at night.

The glee, that had shaken some of the shame she'd not seen, came off like unfastened glitter from porcelain, when she asked for forgiveness again. The lack of light didn't reveal something vengeful with a belt, or something playful with a blindfold. "Don't be." That way I won't be. Soft practicality, rather. He'd seen the stiff in her neck, now striped with lines that curled around the column to say something at him even from where he sat, in front of her. He had to assume it was to avoid Nathan, this tension in her long muscles. Kvell's lesson was that Ophelia would break herself sooner than she would inconvenience him. He bought that with a bit of mortification. He fancied that he would learn greatly from it, and be grateful about that, but truly - which Nathan knew - it would only add to her pain in other games.

"I would like to ask you for something." And it was quite serious, in that his voice steadied, without meat against his teeth. "Would you say a prayer for Ansa?" It wasn't as somber as it should be. "She didn't believe, or if she did, she didn't put it very high." she'd believed in their bond before anything else. She had believed in him. "But I should do my best to make her comfortable. I thought I could if I asked you to speak for her, since I don't think my voice could climb my sins." More wine. "Does it work like that, Ophelia?" he wanted it to. How simple things would be. How truly merciful.

After a few more bloody things to eat, and as many tender cleanings of her lips, he reached to place a silver dome on her plate. As he removed the lid, there was a small tart, just the size he knew she preferred. "It doesn't belong. Me and father usually just went to bed breathing the rawness, but I know your tooth is sweet more than it is predatory." he held it up with an encouraging smirk. "We can all have our own habits." But he would not allow her to decline.

There had been some affection in the morbid supper, and he'd taken to it, but not all that is done by leather can be rebuilt with recent death and sugar. He stood and leaned in, a soft hand on her marked neck. He almost kissed her, with his hoarse mouth to her screamed lips. Instead he offered those eyes onto hers. That he saw her, and that whatever transferred now was what he felt. A connection, at least, weighted as it was. Hopefully she'd not add it to her own tally, because he didn't mean to make her pliable with guilt. Not tonight. Then Kvell left. The staff followed the master, all but one sparrow, who started picking up around her. A china, glass and silver kind of stillness, heavy with the darkness outside. It would last until Ophelia stood up.

"I grew up with Kvell." she said suddenly, the sparrow, to make the girl wait, and hurried to wipe her hands on the apron to follow Ophelia. Apparently her job was to see the twin to her room. And probably lock it. The sparrow was just a bit taller. "He's a gorgeous heart, isn't he?" Her lips were dark and round, and she held her fingers in front, hands bouncing as she walked. Talkative bird. "But he's hungry." She swallowed slowly, breathing through the little beak. "I don't think it'll ever be enough." she shook her head as she opened the door. "I'm Moa. Their family owned mine for generations. I'm paper on the walls or the paintings in corners noone goes, on my good days. Kvell told me to make your acquaintance, and now I have. I'm allowed to answer your questions, but please don't call my name if he whips you. He loves Nathan. He doesn't love me." she held out her hand, and it had black nails. He'd not told her she had to shake, so she would leave if Ophelia didn't want the contact, or some answers. She would lock the door if there was nothing else. There would be a light gown on the bed for her.

Another night would wrap itself around the sharp moon. And the same night would turn that pale light into blue, until it was burnt away by the sun. She'd be allowed to sleep a little longer, in her timeless room, because they had been up late. Kvell would come rushing in eventually, a phone in his bound hand. High boots today, and a coat. No particular theme. He was grateful for the phone, even if this might have woken her. "It's Netty." he explained and held out the device to her.

He was to leave directly after, give them privacy. But he would discover, clutching the door frame, what a perfect thing it was that Ophelia had to speak with the woman, in her gown, which was so gentle and worn by Ansa that it let her new colors shine through. Why, if he wanted, he could do a whole lot to his sister, and she'd still have to speak with the sister of the home with a convincing voice, lest she be called home sooner than her contract said. He closed the door behind him, and leaned against it innocently, waiting for the conversation to set before he did his morning improvisation.

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Re: Ash and Roar
« Reply #27 on: July 12, 2016, 05:09:16 pm »
Ophelia was surprised by his request. She wore that plainly in the way she froze and searched his face for signs of teasing. When she found none, she nodded. “Yes. I mean. No, I don’t think it works that way. You can pray regardless of your sins. But yes, of course I will say a prayer for your—our sister.” She fumbled through her answer. Ophelia was glad to have been asked. If nothing else, it was a goodness they could both agree on. She was becoming increasingly worried that behaving to Kvell’s liking required repentance to her God after. There were stories in the bible about serving multiple gods. It was generally frowned upon.

She was gentle with the tart he gave her to close their meal. A small morsel of comfort that sang to her sweeter than his raw meats had. Ophelia had been well behaved, though, taking whatever foods he’d put to her lips. She took her reward, now, as if it were precious. Despite that kindness, she had obviously not renewed all her faith in her dark prince. When he went to touch her, she flinched and he might nearly have heard her sigh of relief when he pulled away and she found herself unscathed.

Ophelia didn’t move immediately, after Kvell left. In fact, she wasn’t entirely sure she was allowed. To this point, despite being told she was free to wander; she’d been guided to and from every room with such efficiency that she hardly believed she could pick her own steps. When she was sure there was no Nathan to take her back to her room and Kvell did not sweep back in to spirit her off to some new and awful game, she stood. The sparrow chirped her still before she’d moved from the table.

The bird made Ophelia feel tall and spindly, like a strange spider next to the tiny woman with her soft round curves. Not far in age from herself, she was sure, though she couldn’t have spoken in which direction. It was a new thing to be looking down at someone when she’d grown used to gazing upward. To God. To Kvell. To Nathan.

“Gorgeous heart?” she asked quietly, though the sparrow went on chattering. She didn’t really understand what that was supposed to mean. But Ophelia was still grappling with the loyalty of the house to their wicked master, as a rule. She had her own sensibilities, a desire to please drawn out of a fear of retribution and a desire to redeem out of a cultivated sweetness. For staff, though, she thought he ought to be simply frightening. Or maybe his shifting moods had been reserved for his sisters.

They had reached her room. “Oh. It’s good to meet you, Moa.” Ophelia said, accepting the handshake with a little flare of enthusiasm. “It’s good to have another name. I’ll admit it’s a little bit lonely, being surrounded by masks.” She confided. Ophelia caught her lower lip under her teeth. “You and Nathan seem to care a good deal for my brother. And you say he loves Nathan, also…” she hesitated. “Is it that I’m doing something wrong that he hurts me?” she asked. “Can you tell me how to be better?” Ophelia had not let go of Moa’s hand, but dropped it then and clasped her own fingers together as if she’d found a new saint to beg council of. “I think, maybe, I don’t understand.” She looked worried. “I don’t think I love him the way you all do.”

Ophelia took what answers Moa felt inclined to give and did not press further. She was suspicious that she had said too much, as it was. If Kvell had told Moa to speak to her, surely it would not take much to have Moa chirp for him, too. She had told Kvell that she would try to love him, and that much was true. She had not said she had accomplished that task. She told herself he should know how she felt, at least a little, and tried to rest easy.

She put on the provided sleeping down and knelt by her bed. If she had been offensive in admitting her feelings, she could make up for it by honoring his request. Ophelia prayed for Ansa’s peace and whatever forgiveness and grace her soul might require. She prayed a bit, too, for Kvell’s spirit and her own.

When she fell asleep, she dreamt of locking herself in the cellar and finding Ansa smiling from her leather-angel bonds. There was banging on the door but Ophelia was more frightened of the man on the other side than the grinning corpse. She called for help and Ansa stepped down, pulling chain wings wide and wrapping them around the orphan twin. She heard Kvell calling sweetly from outside the cellar. “He’s in your room, Ophelia. Let’s go find Nathan.”

She did not wake from her restless dreams until Kvell’s arrival startled her from her slumber. Ophelia jerked upright, gathering her blankets up in front of her. He was holding out a phone. In her addled half-wake state, she stared blankly back at him. Netty’s name cleared whatever drowsy was slowing her in an instant. She reached eagerly for the device.

“Sister Netty!” she gasped, cradling the phone against her cheek as if it were the most precious thing in the world to her. Perhaps she hated it there. Her blankets dropped away when she grabbed for the phone so that she sat in them like a whirlpool of rich cloths, now. Rising up, a silky sea nymph, her body wore its protests richly today. Their colors were garish beneath the thin sleeping gown, though the letters of Kvell’s contract were beginning to show some more definition where her older bruises were ripening in hazy browns.

Netty was quick to ask her how she was faring at Oleander Manor. She told Ophelia they’d received a call, two mornings prior, from a Nathan Brandston who had said Ophelia would be staying the month. The sister was curious about the arrangement and insistent on details.  “Ah, well. I’m doing fine.” Ophelia said, though she frowned. It was good Netty had not come to visit in person. “The Manor is really beautiful. It’s bigger than St. Emiliani’s, with half as many people.” A weak laugh. “Oh, you see, I’m staying for a while because Sir—my brother thought I should give living here a try. It is technically my home, also, I guess.” She said, toying with a lock of her hair as she picked her words. A pause.

“Don’t worry, Sister, I haven’t made any decisions yet. It’s only been a couple of days. And, even if I stay, I’ll come by to visit and say my goodbyes. You’re all my family.” She giggled, a little happier this time. “You have to make up your mind. Do you want me back or not?” she teased. Sister Netty blustered on about ‘what was best for Ophelia.’ Ophelia laid back in her pillows. “Well. As I said, I’ve made no decisions. I’ll do what I think is best, in the end. I promise.”

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Re: Ash and Roar
« Reply #28 on: July 12, 2016, 10:14:38 pm »
The sparrow girl listened to Ophelia, to the replies at what the sparrow had said. Truly a bird then, with her head on one side, and then quickly on the other, as she took Ophelia in. The mask served this purpose for all of them, the lack of expression to make the language of their bodies more important. Moa's shoulders were awfully still. It was by design, if Ophelia guessed, but it might be impossible to know if the shorter girl had chosen this, or if she had been told. Maybe that would always be the question between them.

Hands tipped in the black of Kvell's eyes reached out for the remaining twin when she asked what she might do that was right, if that which she had done now bought her punishments. The hand stayed right by Ophelia's cheek without touching, swirling as though truly petting a cheek grown half an inch out of hers. No contact. The handshake would be mystifying, then. "You're doing everything right." she said, and looked up, what little bit there was, at Ophelia. Moa's shoulders dropped. A bit of giving up. The sigh had admiration though, the longing kind, but there was a vibrato when the breath was ending that could be few other things than frustration. "Did you have toys? Did they like being carried around, placed by other toys they might not like? Some of them slept in the darkness. As much as you love a toy, if you treat a person the way you treat you dearest toy, you would be a cruel person." Moa took her hand back and corrected her shoulders. "Would your toys ever be better, so good that you'd treat them like people?" Head to the side again, dark lips smiling as she took a step back from the frame. "Thank him when it hurts, moan when you're surprised by the next hurt." Some advice, finally? How could it be? She flicked her beak and turned. "I'll see you tomorrow." And she flew quickly.

Kvell held the phone for as long as Ophelia needed to accept that a day new day had come to her threshold. It was a good little show, of her mind loosing the clinging sleep. She took the phone with more haste than she had nursed the tart, yesterday. He tried to think nothing of it. A beloved sister of the home. He'd offered nothing that could rival that. If she looked over, as she disappeared into the safety of an elder's voice, she would see him smile gently, perhaps enjoying seeing her content. And so animated.

When she laid back he came forward a bit. It became a child's pastime. When she didn't look, he would take steps, and then stand still where he found himself when she turned his way again. It could be unsettling, frightening, even, but it could also be nothing at all. Sweet Ophelia, speaking with her guardian with light words when her body was written on and abused under cloth that wouldn't keep those events hidden. His knees on the bed, and then he didn't care if she saw him move or not. Carefully he crossed her ankles, and sat down on them, most of his weight still on his knees on either side, in the sheets. Enough of him on her to keep her legs from moving.

"Tell her I say Hi." he encouraged, rolling the hem of her gown, to see the small, falling stars that the roses had left. He was sure Ophelia was worried now, and moreso when he leaned down as the gown no longer covered her privacy, or the below curls. If she attempted to lay the phone down, that she'd taken so eagerly, his long arm would shoot up and keep it against her ear. It was quite forbidden to stop talking until he was done with her. Besides, wouldn't Netty be full of idle, by now? If she tried to hold his hand as he touched her stomach, two fingers tracing her navel and then down, he would just like it, but not stop because of it. As low as he was, with his head at the level of her untouched secret, some long breaths would find her garden. This was before his fingers did.

But that was too much fun, for both. The hand pinched, instead, perhaps to pitch the voice Netty was getting, towns away. He went about getting the gown up, taking away that flimsy filter for the art he'd done on her body. If he should have respected her mounds, he'd not heard such a rule. The rumpled up cloth was by her collarbones, soon, so that he could see the contract fully. He sat a little harder on her legs, and lightly backhanded the tattoo, framed in bruising. He wanted her sound, and then whatever explanation she would offer Netty for that sound.

Kvell had not gotten to enjoy the script as much as he'd wanted, being the initiator and artist, so he soothed it with fingertips first, following along as he whispered it's story, his own prayer, perhaps. With her legs crossed under him, he put the other hand atop the Y of her legs meeting her hips, as though to hold that part of her hostage. Which would she rather he pet, was the threat. It was a gentle massage on ribs that read the sentence she'd agreed on, but soon the touch would be deeper, awakening the nerves that had been in misery for a while, to let them throb with his visit. The more she moved, the harder the hand at the end of her torso pushed.

When he was sufficiently happy with reliving the joy of marking her, he lifted himself by digging his knees in, and turned her, belly down before he sat on her legs again. Surely the yelp would be lovely. And then he followed the paths of the lashings from yesterday. If he pushed at the beginning of a long velt, and dragged his digit through the mark, surely she would feel it. His hand did that, then, as though he was reading again, but blindly, and trying to find letters carved on her bones beneath the marks. He wanted her overwhelmed by the stimulation. He also wanted to coax her to cross over, and perhaps see something else in the pain.

Eventually one searching hand would touch the back of her neck, thumb rolling and palm pushing, to ignite the nerves that clad all of her head, so he could see if he could make them sing a psalm through her mind. Kvell leaned over her then, finally trusting her body to take his, fully. Daunting for her, to feel his entirely clothed self against her necked legs, spine and shoulder blades. Buried into the bed by him. And she wasn't allowed to lay down the phone.

The hand not controlling her neck was between her stomach and the sheets. It was the only purely affectionate participant, since there was nothing there that it could use to make her more miserable. His lips kissed her cheek as though to ready her. Then he nuzzled her shoulder and parted his mouth, a large mouth, so his teeth fit around that balled start of her arm. Slowly he closed around her, so she could feel the promise of the pressure from the weapons of his maw before they became a sauntering, hurting reality. Half-eaten heart.

VenomousEve

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Re: Ash and Roar
« Reply #29 on: July 14, 2016, 08:27:43 pm »
She was leery when Kvell began his approach, clutching the phone a bit closer. As if he might take it from her. His little game did not seem to amuse her so much as it amused him, a worried expression for what he had planned. Ophelia rolled onto her side, away from him. If he intended to come, he would come. She wanted to concentrate on Netty’s warm and familiar voice.

Ophelia’s lips read her small dread when he joined her on the bed and adjusted her to his liking. The big doe eyes asked for some sympathy he had no intention to offer. She just wanted this little peace and not to lie to the Sister that had been so much like a mother. Nonetheless, she was obedient and made an effort to keep her tone chipper. “Kvell says hello. I don’t know if the two of you have actually ever spoken, though.” She tried a laugh. Netty returned the salutation kindly, though she admitted she’d not had any more contact with the lord of Oleander Manor than the letter that had requested Ophelia’s presence.

“Why, Sister, here I was thinking you’d checked thoroughly into this arrangement. You sent me off without further word?” she teased. There was some real sense of injustice in it, though. She hoped Netty had not caught it. The Sister clucked and denied any oversight. It wasn’t as if she hadn’t always known from which family Ophelia had come. They weren’t so far away and the Oleander family was well-appointed. She’d simply not been allowed to tell. It might have been inconvenient to the modern nobility.

“Inconvenient? That’s a bit cruel, I think. But I’m glad it gave me a life with you and the other Sisters. You’re all so kind.” Ophelia said. Quick to forgive and forget, always. Less so, now, with Kvell. He had begun to train her this way, whether he intended it so or not. She was trembling before he touched her. “Oh, Netty, I’m so sorry but I need to—“ his hand on hers to stay the phone told her she was not to cut her conversation short. “—ah, never mind. I thought I needed to go, but, it’s fine. Don’t worry.” A tiny hike in the last syllable as her breath caught when his fingers danced.

An odd expression, somewhat torn. He wasn’t hurting her, and for that she was grateful. But then, this was its own misery. Uninvited, he explored the aching expanses of her skin and she was meant to hold this secret. Ophelia had never played such a game. She didn’t know these sorts of secrets or the way to hide one’s fluttering pulse. Her free hand curled and grabbed hard at the blankets, panic when he was too near. She squirmed, pressing her thighs as if she might shut out his ability to see her shame.

Netty was asking about life at the Manor. “It’s only been a few days, as I said, but it’s very different from the Home. I mean,” she took a deep breath when he pushed her little gown higher. Licked her lips and conjured fortitude. “it’s not a bad thing, though. Being different. Oh, the sweets here are divine. They are more luxurious than I knew was possible. So much sugar and cream, Sister you’d have scolded me if you’d seen how much I’ve eaten.”

His hand against her contrast was sharp and sudden and she jolted and let out a little cry. Body arched against that small insult, briefly. If it had been Ansa, the sensuality of that writhing protest would have been intentional. Perhaps Kvell wouldn’t have seen it from her as genuine as this.

Ansa was only honest when she was begging to die or drowning out the howling in her head with her own cries. At least, often enough, it had all been for him.

“No, no, I’m fine. I just…” Ophelia’s voice broke. His free hand against that warmth not even she’d explored. She reached for him, tugging at a sleeve. Please, I beg you, stop, it said. “I just stubbed my toe on the edge of my bed.” She lied weakly. She had the benefit of having been an honest child. Netty paused, but did not question it. He teased her shaking breath, pressing fingertips deep against the bruised words until she thought he meant to push her bones.

She twisted on the bed. No real attempt to escape; she understood when she was under his control. Just the hurt and the rising distress when he put weight against her softness. Simple, sweet girl, playing into his cycle and all its viciousness. There was too much heat blossoming. From pain and from that sinful ache he’d taught her in the labyrinth, tongue on her tongue. She was flushed when he turned her over and did not disappoint with her involuntary yelp. “I’m sorry, Sister, really. I’m fine. I’m just being clumsy. I was sleeping in late and I haven’t turned the lights on in my room. That’s all.” Nervous laughter. “I tripped because my toe hurt a bit more than I expected.” Miserable lie.

“Tell me about how the other are doing. Do they miss me?” she asked. Safety in letting Netty speak, instead of herself. Kvell would see her hand was shaking, holding the phone as she angled her lips away from it. Small gasps when he traced her angel-wing lashes, angry red on her back. Better not let Netty hear. It hurt, this possessiveness. She wanted to hate it, but found that emotion empty. This was not as frightening as yesterday had been, when he had been angry with her and she’d acquired the very wings. To not be frightening was comforting, even when it was under a new ache.

She was, perhaps, more receptive than either of them would have expected, when he laid himself over her and offered his lips to her cheek. It did not change the outcome. His mouth on the joint, she became extraordinarily still. As if he would snap closed like a bear trap if she gave in the slightest. “Ah, Netty, would you pray with me?”