News: 
Paragraphite

The Colorful Stone Kings Read 7609 times

Verse

  • Posts: 1443
  • blue in nothing
    • View Profile
Re: The Colorful Stone Kings
« Reply #90 on: April 18, 2017, 02:19:43 pm »
How formidable she was. Morning had been insightful to teach their princess how to handle herself in a fight. Here he thought the rumors were lies and all she had was great power without a head to use them. So he laughed, delighted when both his arms were up, unable to strike that head off her body, when she threw his red soldiers at him. They shattered obediently upon touching his chest and the shards had cleared from the air in time for him to take her punch to his face. Her fist would be greeted with the same set of jaws that had stopped her blade before. They clasped and drew and swallowed, hoping to eat her, right into his cheek.

His hand extended also, if she let hers be captured, so he could grab her wrist folding the knife. His black armor was fully alive, and the slit for his eyes also had teeth, a mouth that moved while his human lips were protected. “Aren’t you wearing a fitting expression, princess.” He asked and lifted his other arm, a morning start and its chain growing from that palm. He meant to swing, and crush her with it as more red men grew and crowded the booth.

Carxer swallowed, tears in his black eyes when she dared touch his hand. His armor was gone and hissed in frustration as he cried, turning his hand to catch her fingers and squeeze them. “I would never.” He said, disbelieving the evens so far. He shook his head to take back everything, but there was no such spell available. He smiled desperately that she could bring herself to touch him. Somewhere in his mind he was trying to make something that might heal all of this, somehow, when the dull whistles of red men being born became more insistent in the air.

He coughed when Fendin, who he’d not noticed at all, kicked him to the side. Carxer was fast on his feet, ready to go through the protector to get to Adalaide again. But it wasn’t necessary. She wasn’t in harm’s way, and Fendin’s disapproval didn’t hurt as acutely as hers had. Still, his armor grew back when Fendin dispatched of two red men. “It’s not me. It was poison and…” he couldn’t accuse his own cousin. “Wouldn’t I be wearing your throat like a bracelet if you were in my way?” he asked, and there was no threat in his voice.

Millium, who’d intended to teach Morning why a pampered girl could not take down the son of a warlord, saw desperation in Carxer’s eye through mouth of his own suit. The morning star let go of its chain to fall to the floor inside the swing, and at most the constructed links would lash her across the face, heavily. He’d pretend to let go of her wrist in the fray, and let that blade travel were it wanted. An old trick, but one that Carxer wouldn’t have the mind to see. Jaws would again catch her blade once he’d let it in his armor, and moved it to miss his side barely. Royal sons are meant to protect other royals. He could be cunning if there was this much war at stake.

Carxer yelped when he saw Elleson get the better of Millium. Not in a thousand years would he have thought Millium and all his red men could lose in this kind of skirmish. But the constructs were failing, fading and breaking, with Millium’s torso impaled. In an uncharacteristic flash, Carxer wore deep red armor, folded and assembled to fit him perfectly, better form than it ever had. There was gold pulses like a network of veins beneath the surface. He’d never seen this battle shroud, either. His arm reached for the two combatants and a rail shot out from his forearm. He was pulled in their direction in an instant, and meant to gather Elleson by her waist and throw her out the same way Callod had flown.

Even as she’d be tossed, or tackled, or whatever she would make of his attack, she would see in his eyes that he was sorry, not only for what had been done to her, and that insult, but for himself. Even as he got her away, somehow, and held Millium up with his other shoulder and arm, she said in a longing, hurting breath “Peace between us.”

Ara

  • Moderator
  • Posts: 905
  • Fantastic!
    • View Profile
Re: The Colorful Stone Kings
« Reply #91 on: April 18, 2017, 03:58:19 pm »
Elleseon grinned when those jaws of his mask gaped, always hungry those greedy birds. She shoved her taloned fingers into that gape and hooked her thumb below his jaw. The false teeth came down and her fist wrapped around it from within, pulling to strain his armor. Red blades broke against her back and sides when those constructs tried to piece her, the Reaping stone humming against her flesh, plated scales shimmering in purples and greens with each attempted strike. The finer bones in her hand cracked but she didn’t stop pulling.

She didn’t expect him to let go the wrist he’d captured. She was waiting for him to try to turn her blade on her—ready to vanish it when he did, but instead it sunk forward. She saw his intent, the reflection of Carxer in his eyes. Oh, what plotting this bird could do. She had hoped for a simpler beast, one with blood and lust, but this one wanted games and ploys. As soon as his armor let her blade in, she made it grow, splitting and snapping wide like scissors but with too many sharp edges, hoping to surprise him with a bit of pain before he got whatever he was after. She gave one last jerk of her arm and ripped part of his helmet from his face and neck, hoping to see that pain or surprise on his face. The jaw in her fist would crumble when she took it from the rest of him, ash in her hands.

And then Carxer grabbed her. She drew one hand back, new knife forming from smoke, with an aim to strike him down, but over his shoulder she saw Adalaide. Oh, Adalaide. Sad, teary, horrified Adalaide. What monster they all were but not Adalaide. She crumbled the ice that held her half-sister just before letting the red prince throw her from the balcony.

Adalaide screamed and shot to her feet, eyes like gold saucers holding pools of tears. She’d begged for Elleseon’s blessing to be courted by Carxer, and she’d given it. She’d begged for Carxer’s life when he’d attacked her, and Elleseon had given it. And watching her fall from that railing, goaded and attacked by Howlingbirds that wanted nothing but to be her enemy and see her fall, Adalaide realized for the first time—that she’d not only been foolish, she’d been selfish. She’d held her gaze for that second, when she could have stopped her fall, and Adalaide seen it—had known—that she’d been her sister’s weakness. Elleseon, who had been raised to have no weakness at all—had fallen for a half-blood, adopted, stigmatist. Strange, how realizing for the first time that her sister loved her, could break her heart and fill her with shame.

Fendin hissed, leaning into the railing to look over it and watch Elleseon’s landing, but couldn’t follow. He couldn’t leave Adalaide there in a booth with enemies alone. And that was what they were. For the first time she realized it and it hurt more than she could imagine. They were enemies. She looked at Carxer and wondered how she’d never seen it. Maybe she’d never seen herself as a Morning before. Maybe she’d never seen him as a Howlingbird. But he’d thrown Elleseon off that balcony because his side was always Howling. She grabbed onto Fendin, tears rolling down her cheeks even though she wished they’d stop. He was surprised only for a second, lifting her against his side and jumping off the railing to land on the main floor.

Elleseon was there, staring up at the balcony. One side of her beautiful face was a growing bruise with thin cuts she had somehow not yet noticed. “Peace?” She called up, voice tired and bored but all her own now—the Reaping echo receded. “You invited us here under peace to sit with you, bird prince. And sit we did. You attacked my Stigmatist. You attacked me. You do not want peace. You do not know what it means. It is not in your nature and I would not ask you to pretend anymore. Tell me when you’re ready for a battlefield but stop inviting me to your table.” The crowd parted for her when she started for the exit and Adalaide followed with Fendin and the rest of the Mornings leaving their friends and companions to follow her out. No mercreature could have given such a show as the Mornings and Howlingbirds.

Verse

  • Posts: 1443
  • blue in nothing
    • View Profile
Re: The Colorful Stone Kings
« Reply #92 on: April 18, 2017, 08:55:32 pm »
Millium howled in surprise and agony when the blade he’d controlled grew. He’d intended to bleed for this war, to be its father, but he’d not expected her weapon to become a forest. It was his pride that hurt when she tore him, but he got a lot in return when Carxer, valiant and loyal, stupidly threw himself into the trap, and had the dragon arcing off the side. Carxer hadn’t been blind to the weapon that should have touched him, so he didn’t quite know why he was intact when Elleseon was falling. As his cousin hung on him, he saw Adalaide and her misery, and he thought he might as well have been poisoned by something lethal instead of manipulating. It felt as though the stigmatist had abandoned something there. The golden details in his armor became darker. Unpolished brass. Fendin did not stop when Carxer reached for them. He was always reaching for Adalaide, for Elleseon’s favor. For Morning. And Millium was always in the way.

“This. This isn’t all that our Courts could be.” He said, but Elleseon was already leaving. All around him red men were turning into red nothing.

“Battlefield!” Millium repeated, standing up and leaning over the railing, obviously more animated now, even as he was bleeding. “I don’t know this field you’re talking about.” He was taken by excitement, mad with anticipation. “But I’ll try anything once, Dragon of Morning.” He laughed to congratulate himself and turned just in time for Carxer to hide a strike between them, hooking his fist in the little distance and landing it where Elleseon had opened Millium up, under his armor.

“You’ve made an enemy of me, cousin.” He hissed between his teeth, and in that moment brass was gold again.

-

His father waited in his chambers. Carxer, who'd stormed off and gone home with his new suit on, immediately settled into his smaller self when he saw the image of Court King Tarxalag himself. There was a vivid expression, surprise and anger, before the older man settled into disappointment. A change of color in your spell was a big ordeal.

"There has been rumblings. Should I be concerned. You know we have plans, contingencies for any kingdom. This will be involved and might mean we have to pull back on several current campaigns." Always business. Carxer shook his head before lowering it again.

"No war. Not for lack of effort on Millium's part."

"He is rash. But maybe it is time to have a great scale war. The spoils from Troak have been divided." The Blythe fragments, the enhancing crystals, the spirit spewers. "I honestly do not mind another kingdom under us. Morning is a bit away, but we could collect the Courts in our path when we go."

"King Tarxalag. I do not wish to war with them. I want to go through my schooling unmolested by Millium's ambitions."

"Yes. As I have heard, it seemed he was elemental in this skirmish." Tarxalag noted. Carxer could only nod. "You must fight if he does, Carxer. We must not appear weak." Carxer could only sigh at that.

"Yes, King. I did. The reports should say as much."

"You are upset. Does this have to do with your new armor? It looks nothing like Beast's Blood. The red-- it's like your eyes. The form, it looks fast but it doesn't look powerful."

"I have gotten my hands on a new stone. This school is good for that kind of thing if you know how to use it."

"Ah, scheming. It was always your favorite thing." said the king. He was wrong, but for any Howlingbird, if you took an interest that wasn't war, it became your favorite thing in the eyes of others.

The conversation went on until Carxer was allowed his chambers back, his privacy, and the King's image faded. Father had asked about Adalaied, and if Carxer would like the campaign to be for her. Howlingbird lusts were sometimes enough to move their armies. Carxer declined that offer, as well, and would accept that his father send him a carnal tourniquet from Courts won. He'd not minded them in the past, but now it felt distasteful.

When the morning came, there was no lively Howlingbird chick, running and challenging other Courts for his required manifests. Callod awoke in his new chambers in the Howlingbird wing, staring at the ceiling, and Carxer remained in his corner, among the rubble of his furniture, hand around Adalaide's stone.

Millium, however, was striding through the corridors, buying tuition for lower Courts and casually challenging anyone strong in his way.

Ara

  • Moderator
  • Posts: 905
  • Fantastic!
    • View Profile
Re: The Colorful Stone Kings
« Reply #93 on: April 18, 2017, 09:57:40 pm »
Adalaide had followed silently, watching Elleseon unabashed. Her armor had faded before she climbed into their carriage. Adalaide and Fendin and followed her in while the other Mornings took to the carriages that followed. No one would complain about mer shows missed, sobered from their light-hearted youth by the reminder of loyalties and enemies. She saw Tempus standing there, among the GraySkies waiting for their carriage. He bowed, a roll of an arm and a tip of his head with a jester’s smile. She didn’t understand what had amused or if it was an act of anger at having been forced to follow.

She didn’t think long on it. Elleseon didn’t speak and neither did Fendin—not even to complain or talk or rivalry and foolish behavior. Not even to blame Adalaide. She almost wished he had. For once she realized she deserved it.

When they walked the long hall back to their large parlor, she realized Elleseon was favoring one hand, the other arm limp at her side. Craning her neck, she saw the purple fingers peeking from her sleeve. “Here.” She started forward, arm extended and the white and gold stone in her ear humming. She reached for Elleseon’s arm and the princess looked surprised before furious.

She reeled back, rolling that shoulder to pull her hand from the stigmatist. “Don’t touch me,” Elleseon hissed and when she turned Adalaide saw that the dark bruises across the side of her face had grown, swelling and welting around the thin cuts there. “Just. Don’t.” Elleseon sighed and turned down the long hall toward her room. Fendin began to follow her but she raised her good hand to stop him in her wake. “Stay with her. She doesn’t look well.” The princess commanded distantly before disappearing, servants hurrying to follow her where no even her family was welcome.

Adalaide felt her face crumble into a sob, though she wished desperately she could hold it back. Fendin groaned and lead her to her room. He didn’t even berate her in private. She cried until her eyes hurt. Until they burned. And then she cried because they hurt, before realizing it was one over the other. She sat at her vanity on the plush little chair and stared at herself, trying to scrub the tears back. Her face was hot, her dress torn, and one eye so brightly gold that it was practically molten. “No,” she exhaled in shock, fingers trembling in front of it. She couldn’t see from it anymore. Her hand shook in front of her face when she watched in the mirror as her pupil vanished into the gold, the molten stone eating away the whites as well.

Fendin sat on the edge of her bed, watching grimly. “It’ll have to go. I’ll send for a sedative and—”

With her shaking hand she took the scissors from inside the drawer and opened up the silver blades like a knife, holding it in front of her face.

Fendin froze, watching. “Don’t pretend, little girl. I’ll get it out before she sees.” They both knew that Elleseon had a habit of going frantic when she saw the stones born. Fendin thought it was greed. Adalaide knew it was misery. It was Elleseon’s job to gather the stones. She didn’t give herself time to hesitate in cutting them out because she was afraid she’d fail.

She remembered Elleseon taking that fall off the balcony. She hadn’t been wounded by it but it had been a loss. She could imagine what Favia would say. Leaving a fight first was as good as running away. She clenched her teeth, grabbed her face with one hand, and dug the scissor blade in with the other.


-


Elleseon stood on the little podium in her dressing area, staring in the mirrors that formed a half circle in one corner while the maids stripped her down. They cut the dress off her and returned her jewels to their cases, all but the necklace of ice that hung between her breasts, scraping her pale flesh there with new scratches over old ones, and the Reaping stone in her back. She saw it in the mirrors, ugly black thing sewn into her flesh. Gold threads and scar tissue held it in, against her spine, between her shoulder blades. Her skin was red and irritated the whole way up and down her spine from the use of it. It would fade soon enough. She’d once used the Reaping stone so much that it burned her whole back in thick welts and bubbles. The maids ran cold wash clothes down her back before pulling the silk robe over her and tying it loosely around her waist.

In the mirror, behind her, she saw one of the maids unpinning the amythest brooch from the shreds of her gown and carrying it to her vanity. She turned. “Stop. Not that one.” She swallowed, remembering Callod. She’d been almost as foolish as Adalaide. “Put that one in an iron box.” She should have told her to get rid of it. To crush it or throw the box into the sea. It could be anything—a curse waiting to make a fool of her, or give another enemy the chance at her life. “Put it in a box and then in the drawer.” She was weak. She felt it. They did as she said and then left and she sat on the pedestal and stared back at her mirrors until it was morning once more and they came to wake her.

She sat her breakfast table, dressed for class as though her face wasn’t still a mess and her hand still broken. She’d just send a maid to bring her the new healer when Adalaide came from her room, dressed in somber navy blue with a lace collar and a lace binding that crossed her face to cover one eye. Elleseon considered it dramatic before she came to place the little open box on the breakfast table and she noticed her pallid color. She didn’t sit, because today she hadn’t been invited and for the first time, Adalaide seemed to care about protocol.

Elleseon looked down at the box, at the glassy, molten gold stone. It was smooth on one end and long and jagged on the other. She touched it before she realized what it was and looked up again, waiting. Adalaide obliged and lifted the lace to show her the bloody gauze before lifting that too to expose the ruined eye stitched shut. Elleseon closed the box with her good hand. “Sit.” She offered before picking up her coffee. Adalaide joined her, pouring her own cup in silence.

Verse

  • Posts: 1443
  • blue in nothing
    • View Profile
Re: The Colorful Stone Kings
« Reply #94 on: April 19, 2017, 12:00:37 pm »
Carxer had good clothes on. Red leather and silver settings for the Blythe stones. Black cotton underneath. Some of the vain spells had taken away what the night had done to him. It was early to hope. Not even a day since the incident, but he figured Morning had to eat. He’d not attended any lecture, and people were eager to see him, given yesterday’s ruckus at the Mer show. Still, the Howlingbird table was set and some of the students, distant relatives and emissaries from their Court, had sat down already. Lunch wasn’t to be served for a few minutes yet. Callod had some wine in one of the corners. Millium had suggested the connection between the assassin and the Morning princess. Carxer would use anything he could.

Callod was thinking of The Morning Court also. He was drinking the wine sparingly but liked the comfort of having intoxication available. He could still feel the cold of the wind that had kept him from breaking bones against the floor. He fought the impulse to go to her all night. Surely she would be furious. And he had only done what he was supposed to. Always carry out the task, that they may control the world in their way. That didn’t sit very well with him now. He wasn’t sure he could believe it, anymore, when Millium had used it to help his own attempt at a greater war. What use was a Court of assassins that only obeyed one master. What kind of balance was that?

Carxer had tried to be as secretive as possible with his taking his lunch publicly, today. He was of course afraid that Elleseon would have her Court in their wing for this meal, if she’d know there’d be sharing the room with Howlingbirds, also. Often, his hand went to his chest, and he felt without hope when he felt the heat of her stone through the armor. He should be navigating conversations with other powerful students, if yesterday would be the beginning of a fight that would involve their parents, but he hadn’t the presence of mind for anything else than Adalaide. The hour came, and the doors opened, as it was proper time to sit down and eat. He looked to the doors and waited.

He could not remember wanting anything so much. He’d wanted to see mother, before she was absorbed by the duties of her skills. He wanted for father to take her back into the Palace Nest and for the two to act like they shared something emotional. That desire was nothing to how he felt now. He felt hungry and parched in a part of his chest that had never complained before. He felt as though he’d become acutely alive only so that he could perfectly feel every detail of missing her. It was supposed to be something easily forgotten, a joke, and polite dismissal. And now he was here, wondering what he had that was worth enough that he could trade. He was dying for her forgiveness, the way he’d try to have, but what was there to forgive? He’d wanted her in that manner. It had only been raised to overshadow his other emotions. With the poison gone, his greet for her, and the delight in tearing her clothes wasn’t reveal as a lie. Among the rubble in his room were a few soiled things, as well, marked because she wasn’t available. He tried not to think of it. He needed to believe he was good, so that he could present himself as good in front of Elleseon.

Ara

  • Moderator
  • Posts: 905
  • Fantastic!
    • View Profile
Re: The Colorful Stone Kings
« Reply #95 on: April 19, 2017, 02:18:53 pm »

Tempus found Carxer easily, letting out a sigh and taking the seat beside him, pretending to watch the doors as well. “You ruined my evening.” He pointed out casually. His own table was sparse without the Mornings, though it had a handful of newcomers from the Silverleaf court. “Your show has all the courts wondering how much longer before Howlingbird and Morning turn on one another. All the lands in between are quite anxious. Silverleaf signed a treaty with Favia this morning to kneel at her throne rather than risk falling to yours when the day comes. Rash, really. Like Favia wouldn’t have let them later on. They should have enjoyed their freedom while they had it.” He spoke as a court that had fallen. They’d fought long and hard and only knelt to Favia when their legs had been broken.

He chanced a glance at the Howlingbird prince and then sighed again. “She’s coming. Of course, she’s coming. You’ve left her no choice.” He sounded annoyed. He was annoyed. Politics were not so enjoyable. “If Elleseon took the day alone, even though they often do dine alone, she would look like a coward. The academy is already humming with her retreat last night. I’ll admit, I found it thrilling to watch the two of you shove her from her balcony. Almost like watching someone shove her from her throne. Almost.” He’d suspected Adalaide would be her weakness, but never had opportunity to test it before. He’d never dreamed it would work so well, so true, so easy. Elleseon had a heart, despite all of Favia’s efforts to purge her of it, and it would be the death of her. No one could rule Morning with a heart.

The doors opened but Tempus didn’t look, lounging in the seat instead and watching Carxer.

Elleseon was dressed in soft white leather pants and a thin gray sweater with too long sleeves. A layer of delicate chainmail hung over her chest, draped from silver shoulder plates and sparkling with pearly white stones that matched the ones dangling from her ears. A new stone, gold incased in a layer of clear, hung around her neck, resting between her collarbones. It was the color of Adalaide’s eyes. Well, the color of her eye.

The stigmatist was not with them. Elleseon had expected her to insist on coming to lunch, desperate for that chance to see Carxer, but she hadn’t. She hadn’t even asked. Elleseon suggested she rest and she agreed, requesting a scribe fetch her lessons for her before returning to her room. Elleseon wasn’t yet sure what to make of her moods. Maybe it was the blood loss from this stone birthing or maybe it was the shock of losing an eye. Was Adalaide vain? Was she afraid to be seen? Elleseon sat at the head of her table, smiling casually at her companions while Fendin talked softly beside her. She should send more healers to try to repair what damage they could. They had never been successful in healing the cuts from Adalaide’s stone birthings before, but it was worth a try, especially if the stigmatist was feeling the loss.

She caught sight of Callod in one corner and offered him a smile and a tip of her head, as though the night before had never happened. It hadn’t been his fault, and even if it had, what more could she expect? Everyone was her enemy in the end. Favia had taught her that lesson well and early enough in life that she had no desire to begrudge anyone for it. She was Elleseon of the Morning. She pretended to eat and pretended to drink because now she understood that this was no practice ground for the trials of their adulthood—this was the start.

Verse

  • Posts: 1443
  • blue in nothing
    • View Profile
Re: The Colorful Stone Kings
« Reply #96 on: April 19, 2017, 08:10:54 pm »
Carxer was grateful for Tempus’s company, if only for what court he reluctantly represented. “The evening was rather ruined, yes. “ he agreed with a crooked smile. A lot of his usual ego was missing in that expression. “We’re not going to war. Yesterday was… unfortunate.” He tried and listened when the presence of Silverleaf was explained. It made a lot of sense. Father must already know. It was not in Morning’s interest to protect Silverleaf if they did want to stay out of a conflict, since it would be easier for Howlingbirds to reach the now further extended kingdom. Carxer hadn’t cared about where their powerful soldiers would be directed next until now. Howlingbird colonies speckled this world. But now he was invested, because how it would inevitably affect his connection to Adalaide.

Carxer betrayed himself when Tempus said that she was coming. The anxious elation was exhaled with the drop of his shoulders when he realized the gray was talking about the older princess of the court. He nodded. That had value too. He had been foolish to hope for more. The bit about the fall translating poetically to a dethroning was too much for the Howlingbird. He’d not even earned that. He’d been crazed and she’d spared him. “I think if we ever fight, things will turn out differently.” He assured Tempus. “have you heard of Adalaide?” he asked, as though the question hadn’t been showing in his face for the duration of this conversation.

When Elleseon came, Carxer almost stood, but saw the futility of such eagerness. Eventually, as she brought her poise to her table with the Silverleaf, he noticed Adalaide’s color. The fork he was holding bent soundly. That stone. He was sure it had been birthed. Red welled from him, like growing frost, like a Mars kind of winter, when he had to fight the impulse to cut up the room on his way to the only princess that had shown up. It wasn't anger, it was just an ambulatory craving to know.

But Elleseon wouldn't hurt Adalaide, would she? She'd fallen for her, yesterday. He wanted to believe. His world would be must simpler, then. But it seemed such sisterly love had not stopped the Morning Dragon from cutting sweet Adalaide up for the strone thrumming agains his sternum. He looked down at Tempus, gold lashes and bronzing sclera. "Where is Adalaide? Is she hurt? Have you heard anything, stormer?"

"Millium." Callod said, but his face was soft when he bowed at Elleseon's attention. Carxer recognized him to be in a somewhat similar dilemma at the moment.

"What?" he demanded, but was already understanding what the assasin meant. He supposed the Salec code exstended to himself as a master, as well, even though the greatest army under the Howlingbird Court could rival the power of the prince according to some.

"He needs to be stopped."

Ara

  • Moderator
  • Posts: 905
  • Fantastic!
    • View Profile
Re: The Colorful Stone Kings
« Reply #97 on: April 19, 2017, 09:17:55 pm »
Tempus nodded with substantially less interest in the topic, observing the Morning princess now that she sat at her table. He had hoped to see her still broken or bruised from the night before. “Of course, I’ve heard. It’s not hard to spy on Morning when you’re under their thumb. The healer is resting. She birthed another stone.” He said it like it was nothing special at all, like he hadn’t been waiting to be asked.

“No one seems to know the details, so I’m guessing it was either Elleseon or Fendin that cut it from her. But the maids were all a chatter about how kind our Morning princess was, refusing to let the stigmatist heal her this morning.” Tempus smiled like the idea of her suffering all night pleased him. “She had to stoop to letting that healer you give her do the job. Quite a risk. I admit, I’m disappointed he wasn’t another ploy on the part of your court to strike her down. But I suppose she didn’t have much of a choice. Favia doesn’t give her healers because she already gave her Adalaide, and she couldn’t exactly come walking in here like nothing happened with her face more blue than white.”

-

Elleseon laughed at something one of Tempus’s cousins said down the table, a beautiful and trained sound that allowed everyone to smile easily with her. A scribe hurried up the side of the table, ever unreadable face and Morning colors on his tunic. He stopped at the head, bowed, and then leaned in to hand Elleseon a letter before disappearing. She leaned back comfortably and rolled her thumb between the thick page to break the seal. Her heart was in her throat but no one would know it looking at her. It was her mother’s seal.

She read it once without response and then twice for a show of smiling and excusing herself to secret good news. It was an excuse to leave at least, that was something. She smiled the whole way out the doors and didn’t let that false joy pull from her features until she was alone in a long corridor, pulse racing and vision blurring a little at the edges. Favia was waiting. She took quick steps away from the dining hall and toward the Morning corridors. She needed to get there before Favia got bored or found Adalaide alone.

Verse

  • Posts: 1443
  • blue in nothing
    • View Profile
Re: The Colorful Stone Kings
« Reply #98 on: April 20, 2017, 10:53:20 am »
It was devastating to have the stone confirmed as Adalaide’s. He supposed he’d known and had tried to will the Gray to answer anything else. That meant Adalaide had been cut again. Carxer thought it was strange that Elleseon hadn’t taken Adalaide’s help. In a way, using the healer he’d gifted her gave him hope. His heart was thirsty for it. But what Callod was saying seemed a lot more pressing. He put a hand on Tempus’s shoulder to keep him in place, as though he’d run away with all his knowledge.

“You’re mad. You don’t even know how impossible it is to restrain Millium.” He shook his head. “It’s not like he’s been forthcoming with you, right? Well, imagine that, and then add the comfort of a family bond.”

“I didn’t say it was going to be easy. But I think your horror eyes should be on the price, yes?” Callod pressed. He’d been through this in his own head. He thought of killing Millium but that would be both difficult and against his code. Carxer was being quiet, so he continued. “What will it do to your precious healer if Millium gets his way?”

“You’re out of line, assassin.”

“Acquire my Court. Or at least buy my services. You have rank, you’re a prince. Use it to get what you want.” None of them seemed to care that Tempus was listening. “And then, maybe at the end of your efforts, there’ll be some blue bush for you.”

Carxer coughed in fury at the crassness and his teeth became red and pointed. “You hold your fucking t…” but he saw Elleseon leave. Callod rolled his eyes when the prince also excused himself in a subtle way. Carxer had to think on the suggestion, but for now he needed to try another foolish plan.

She’d gone ahead. It would be impossible to follow close. He touched an earring and fell into everyone’s apathetic angle. A dirty trick in melee. Not invisible but not seen. He moved quickly, but let her have her distance. It was an easy spell to counter, some war magics simply undid it without think when adrenaline was high. Nobody should be so wise now. He didn’t know what to do, but he knew he had to get to Adalaide.

Ara

  • Moderator
  • Posts: 905
  • Fantastic!
    • View Profile
Re: The Colorful Stone Kings
« Reply #99 on: April 20, 2017, 12:03:56 pm »
Tempus perked up a little at being included in secret Howlingbird/Salec conversations. Usually he had to pretend to be asleep or pay spies to get such information.

After Carxer excused himself to chase the Morning princess, Tempus scooted over into his spot and a little closer to the Salec. “A clever move, to try to get yourself into Carxer’s service rather than Millium’s. Better the lusty prince than the sadistic warling.” He mused, watching the Salec. He’d never been close to any of that Court before, but he sympathized with their current plight. He hated belonging to the Mornings and they weren’t nearly as invasive or malicious as the Howlingbirds. But, at the same time, Callod seemed to have a soft spot for Elleseon. “But I suppose, you’re more interested in getting Morning favor than Carxer’s.” He said quietly.

Elleseon seemed to have a soft spot of her own for Callod. Tempus had seen her save him from his fall the night before and the little glances and smiles she offered him. They were different than usual. They were kind. What would Elleseon look like with a broken heart? He’d never dreamed of it before because he hadn’t really imagined her with a heart that could break.

-

Elleseon stopped outside her door, took a breath, pressed back her shoulders, lifted her chin and then walked in. Favia stood near the windows, inspecting the room. The light gleamed in her gold armor and near matching hair. Strands of that deep blond twirled around her crown. Blue stones cuffed her ears, braided into her hair and embedded in her sleek armor.

“My beloved.” She sang, turning to smile at her daughter. There was nothing kind about it, not when you knew all her horrible smiles. The door closed at her back and that smile pulled at the corners into something vicious. “Tarxalag was here,” she said it thoughtfully but Elleseon heard meanings so much more than just the presence of another ruler at the school. “You’re failing me.”

Elleseon felt her knees threaten to give at those words, her eyes fixed to the floor at her mother’s feet. Pain was humming in her veins now, she clenched her fists, trying to hold the Reaping stone in check. It sang for its Queen. “It is strategy.”

“It was weak and it ripples through my lands.”

Elleseon parted her lips to speak but the pain spiked through her body, forcing her mouth and eyes wide when the Reaping stone answered Favia’s will, drawing a black spike from her daughter’s chest. Her knees hit the floor, head back, another shooting up from someplace near her heart, cutting through to stick out below her collar and upward, almost her throat.

Favia stepped closer, studying the blood her heir coughed up to spray the floor. “I’ve given you everything. I’ve made you strong. And yet here you are, made weak by children.” She watched Elleseon struggle to breathe, eyes glazing over. She reached out, touching the gold stone on her daughter’s neck with the tip of a gloved finger. “One stone. Where’s the other one?” She saw the surprise in her child’s eyes. “Did you think I didn’t have my own spies? You lost one of Adalaide’s stones to that Howlingbird. You seem to lose much to Howlingbirds.”

The side door shoved open and Adalaide burst out, staggering to a stop a few steps in at the sight. Her one eye was full of tears for both but her head bowed all the same when the Queen turned to look at her. “Your majesty, please.” Adalaide begged in her small voice.

Favia turned fully to face her, a twirl of her hand making the spikes inside Elleseon’s body shrink and vanish. The princess doubled over and coughed wildly, making a puddle of her own red.

Favia spread her arms as though to hide the scene from the blue haired stigmatist, smiling sweetly. “Darling, you should be resting. You have gifted Morning with such a gem and we are so grateful.”

Adalaide looked past her to Elleseon, the other girl trying to push herself back to her feet despite the holes in her chest. “It wasn’t her fault.” Adalaide pressed, made bold by her desperation to resolve her guilt. “I begged her to have mercy. I—”

Favia shhhed the girl and shook her head. “Nothing is ever your fault. You are a gift to the Morning. A gift to the world.” She said it was such certainty that it was hard to remember, in that moment, how terrible she could be.

Elleseon looked on, swallowing hard and managing to balance herself on her feet again. “Adalaide, return to your room.” She ordered, voice dark and tired and wet with blood.

Adalaide almost argued, almost, but if she did, her own impertinence wouldn’t be blamed on her—it would be blamed on Elleseon. She bowed low, chin wobbling with tears she tried to hold back, and backed out of the room.

Favia waited until she was gone to turn and look at her daughter again, disinterest in her eyes now. She closed the space between them, towering over her for a moment. “Another failure. Another embarrassment, and I’ll bring you home. And if you can not impress me then, I will rip that stone out of you and give you to the Howlingbirds as a present before the war they love so much.”

“Yes, mother.” Elleseon spoke past the blood, eyes fixed on the wall, unflinching.

“Show me your regret. Show me your love.” Favia spoke softly beside her, waiting.

Elleseon kept her eyes on the window, fingers shaking. She called her Reaping stone, grit her teeth, and pulled her will until new spines grew from her, stabbing out through her back and stomach and chest. She shook. She wobbled. Oh how she bled. But she didn’t fall this time. Her bloodshot eyes turned to look back at her mother, one of those red coated spikes having stopped just inches from the Queen’s face.

Favia smiled. It was her forgiving smile that meant nothing but a momentary lapse of fury. She walked away and Elleseon held her position in penance, fists curled, waiting. Favia left through the private doors of the Morning quarters. Elleseon stared out the window at the afternoon sun, washed in morning light that made the blood on the spikes bright. This was her love.

Verse

  • Posts: 1443
  • blue in nothing
    • View Profile
Re: The Colorful Stone Kings
« Reply #100 on: April 20, 2017, 01:58:18 pm »
Carxer would not have been so bold as to follow her if she’d not seem so distracted. His spells were not as well-crafted as those of thieves, but he could well afford the stones that gave him the ability to be unseen. It helped that no one here thought someone could be so rash. At first he’d simply hoped to catch her where she couldn’t excuse herself, appeal to her, but now he was the audience to a rather private matter. This was too much of an intrusion for him to announce himself.

It pained him to see the woman blame her daughter, but at least this much pressure was expected for the heirs of Courts. He’d never imagined Elleseon like this, and reached for her uselessly when Favia commanded spikes to chastise the princess. He wanted to speak up then, but didn’t. He only watched Elleseon bleed. His hand instead came to his chest, where the treasure they spoke of hung behind his clothes. So much trouble. He took care to fortify the spell inwardly. Being revealed now would surely be a great conflict, if not all out war.

He almost gave himself away when Adalaide came in, and he saw her bandage. His hand graced her hair as she passed. Her eye. His hand curled into a fist in her wake. He wanted to help Elleseon more then, for how her suffering was affecting his beloved. With the way Favia spoke to the half-princess, like her thoughts meant nothing but her existence was everything, he realized he might never have her in peace, not the way she was treasured by the queen. He wanted to follow when Adalaide was excused, but he stayed to see Favia ask self-mutilation of her child. It was a fantastical display of obedience and he thought it was beautiful in its own way. He’d been made to suffer too, to harden him, but lately they assumed his blood-thirst and training would be enough for his continued success as a prince. There were many poor strategists and warriors in the family. You were simply expected to perpetuate and encourage war, not always win it.

When the queen had gone, and Elleseon found herself at the window, he realized he must act. There’d be very little excuse for knowing what he did if he came to her later. He waited for Favia to be gone a good distance before he peeled out of nowhere, by one of the farthest walls. “Elleseon, princess.” He started and held his hands out to show he’d come with peaceful intentions. A benevolent invader, then. He ran to her. “I saw it. I’m sorry. I came in here cloaked to speak to you, but then I couldn’t interrupt.” It sounded so selfish, and he was.

“Things are dire. It is my fault.” He said when he reached her. Fear was in his lungs and it spent his voice on some of the words before they’d been spoken. He was afraid of himself, of the desperation, and he was afraid of Elleseon’s rejection. Here I am, serene, while you are bleeding. “Does she want war? Do you? Yesterday was writhe with mistakes but I don’t think I can stop this.” Wanting Adalaide. “Talk to me.” With the blood still in your mouth. “Is there a way?”

Ara

  • Moderator
  • Posts: 905
  • Fantastic!
    • View Profile
Re: The Colorful Stone Kings
« Reply #101 on: April 20, 2017, 02:17:47 pm »
His sudden presence was a horrible surprise. Her body twitched, head snapping to the side to stare at him with wide eyes. A shield rolled out, coating the floor around her in ice. No hiding what she thought of him now, with her body full of holes and her white clothes turned red. Her bloodied teeth clenched and she drew the spikes inward again, back into the stone in her back where they always lived, waiting for her to fail again and taste their love.

She staggered, cringing, but refused to fall in front of him. Of course, he couldn’t even let her have this. She turned toward him, watching him with hazy vision. Slowly her bloody mouth peeled into a grin of pink teeth. “You want to talk about your romance? Now?” She laughed and it became a cough, spitting thick red and black onto the floor before nodding and licking at her lips. “She always wants war, but only one she can win. You Howlingbird’s always want war, any kind they can have. It’s inevitable, isn’t it?” Her voice was a wheezing, cracked thing, like glass across the floor. She walked to that stiff-backed chair in the window. Two steps that felt like a mile barefoot on the desert. She sat and coughed up more blood, managing to spit it on the floor like wine into a bucket. “But that’s not what you’re asking about. You’re asking if I can give you Adalaide.”

She drew labored breaths but her expression seemed to fight it, not willing to struggle when she was trained to have endless grace. She looked up at him. She should lie. She should string him along or corner him but she was too tired and today… today she didn’t care about Morning. “Even if she wasn’t a stigmatist—a jewel to my crown—I would never give her to you because you are not just you, Carxer Howlingbird. You are Millium. You are your father. You are your Court and she…” Her voice cracked, tears that had nothing to do with the agony of her body swimming in her blue eyes. Her lips pressed against words she couldn’t say, head shaking stiffly. “We are damned. She and I and you. But I would not let her suffer more than she already must. I cannot risk what happened—what almost happened—on that balcony. I cannot risk what Millium would do to her.” Even if she could endure what her mother would make her pay for the loss of Adalaide. Even if she was willing to die for it. It wasn’t worth dying for.

Verse

  • Posts: 1443
  • blue in nothing
    • View Profile
Re: The Colorful Stone Kings
« Reply #102 on: April 20, 2017, 09:19:48 pm »
The shield brought a red hue to his throat, always there, first, but the armor didn't form because she didn't make anything offensive. Carxer wanted to catch her at her every motion, but she didn't falter. He'd let her be and called for healers if this wasn't so desperate. She'd spared him for Adalaide. She'd given up fighting Millium for her. He'd hoped she could let go for her half sister, as well.

"I don't want war." he said, and it was true, because it had always been true. His Court was wrong. He didn't need them to do good, but he thought it was miserable that they were an instance lubricated by the blood of their soldiers. "You don't want war." he said, and he was hopeful, following her in the smeared prints she left. He nodded dumbly when she cut his finery, and mentioned the name of his desire.

This was dark because Elleseon wasn't the woman people thought she was. She wasn't cold when it came to their beloved stigmatist. "I am none of those people!" he tried, and waved his arm out and down at the accusation. They were men he knew, and he understood them, but he could denounce them now if it brought him closer to his heart. "I wouldn't let Millium touch her. I'd burn him. I would make her a necklace of his magic." But she was resting deeper into her decision, and he couldn't reach her. Her sense was cold sense, and so his march based on poetry couldn't sway her.

The prince of the Howlingbirds came closer to the bleeding Dragon, and he knelt in her blood and took one of her hands in one of his. "Couldn't you do it out of spite? Couldn't you do it out of hope? I can promise you a thousand beautiful things until you give her to me, but I'd betray you as soon as I have her. But I won't betray her." he said as his other hand reached for her chest, where one of the spikes had grown. He would put pressure on the flow. "If they want a war, then they'll have it, and the outcome can be as uncertain as it has to. Can't we ignite it? You can tell them I stole her. Then we'll have our battles, but you and I will know she's safe and as happy as I can make her." He turned his head down but was still firm with both his hands. "I don't have this kind of cunning. I can tell you how we'll take your lands, and how your loyalties will be gone in two generations, and how a plague will kill of the bastards of rape, but I can't find her hand if you won't give it to me." he looked up at her again. "It's not impossible." his eyes were wide with his breaking heart. Black orbs with red lenses, but nothing threatening or monstrous as his enemies saw. He was just reading her face for his own hope. "It can be done, her happiness."

Ara

  • Moderator
  • Posts: 905
  • Fantastic!
    • View Profile
Re: The Colorful Stone Kings
« Reply #103 on: April 24, 2017, 02:43:32 pm »
She smiled with blood coated teeth but shook her head grimly. Adalaide’s happiness was more fragile than the thinnest glass. It would be a delicate and rare thing. How could something as rash and violent as a Howlingbird do anything but smash it? He was so full of hope, so desperate and certain in his own need that he could accomplish his dreams. But Elleseon knew the cold certainty of things. She knew it would be tragic because she had never seen or felt any love in her life that did not bring agony.

It had only been a handful of days since this bird took her stigmatist’s heart, and already they were writhing in their pain. Her body shook under the press of his hands, resisting the urge to cough up blood pooling in her chest. Her gaze strayed to the side of the room, seeing the movement in a doorway of a maid. The staff had crept back after they were sure Favia had gone. One hurried off, to sprint down the halls and find the new healer. They’d seen her let him heal her hand and face that morning. The other stayed pressed to the mouth of the hallway, peeking in but too afraid to approach, or maybe just hopeful she’d see her princess die.

Elleseon looked at Carxer again, face pinching in some confusion when his hands stayed on her chest, not pushing to drive pain but clamped down to stem the blood loss. She would have laughed if she could muster enough air, smiling instead while tears slipped down one cheek. “What are you waiting for, prince?” The Morning asked, voice heavy with blood. “You have it all in your reach. Finish me and steal your stigmatist. Start your war. How proud your people will be. How furious mine.” She nodded slowly as it made more sense, her own body barely able to muster the gesture. So much blood had left her now. The chair she sat in was soaked through, her body sagged into its frame. All he need do is let go and maybe, just maybe, she’d die before anyone came. But to be sure of it, he could put another hole or two in her. Cut her throat wide. If he wanted to pretend he hadn’t done it, he could leave before they saw and hope it was blamed on Favia.

Verse

  • Posts: 1443
  • blue in nothing
    • View Profile
Re: The Colorful Stone Kings
« Reply #104 on: April 24, 2017, 05:21:37 pm »
Carxer was confused by what she said, first. For a fraction of a moment he thought that Elleseon had agreed to his plea. What are you waiting for, go get Adelaide. But her meaning was fittingly morbid, instead. He shook his head as the hand grew more adamant against the self-inflicted tunnel in her chest. He didn’t want what his people wanted. But he knew, and the thought showed in his face, that he’d start such a harrowing conflict if it was the only choice. He refused to think there was no other way, or that Elleseon, despite her upbringing, would want to die for such a fruitless thing. He also considered that dying for war might be easier for the bleeding princess before him. He concluded that he could not accept that, either.

The blood was becoming too insistent, and his palm grew hot at his command, until the skin seared shut. The healer would be here in time. Of course, it would work to indict Carxer further when his handprint was still hot on her body if she died. This meeting was risky enough already. “I would, but I want to spare Adalaide’s heart when I can.” He said. He was truly a disgrace to his own court, to have turned down this opportunity. If father ever would disown him, it might be for this. Millium would be livid if he learned about it. “Didn’t you stay your sword hand, also?” he said with a small smile. He felt a bit more secure that she’d not take Adalaide away, if he saw that he meant to mend things for her.

Alezand hurried in, pushing the maid who’d led him aside. “Carxer!” he accused as he sat on his knees by the princess and the unwelcome prince. Through his upset he could still remember Carxer’s ability to be cruel, and reached for his hand carefully. Carxer rolled his eyes and took the cover of the black blood away himself.

“Just heal her!” the Howlingbird said with a warning.

“Elleseon, princess, I…” Alezand started but replaced the larger handprint with his own without more delay, and crossed the fingers of his other hand over it, as well. He gasped when the damage echoed back to him from the small incantation. He also saw the Reaping stone with that magic. He was trained exactly for this and began to convince her flesh to reconnect. The damage couldn’t be reversed, but he could easily retrace the complex of wounds in her and fill those hollows with magic. A tear came from his eye when he hurried to shut her babbling hollows, for how unrefined his work was. Carxer patted him on the shoulder.

“This isn’t a decapitation or great loss of organs, chick. You can do this. Don’t bring shame to your training that we gave you.” He said with a condescending voice. Alezand smiled a little. It might be one of few acknowledgements he’d ever received from Carxer.

Carxer held her hand while the healer did his work, which became easier the further from peril she was. “Maybe you ought to leave, sir.” Alezand said, high on his own success, but also dulled by his emotional fatigue. Carxer didn’t even turn his attention from Elleseon’s face to answer.

“Why? So they can say I fled? Do your job. I think I know what’s best for my position.” The healer shouldn’t be wrong though. Carxer expected hostile company soon. He felt averse to leaving until Elleseon showed she was going to survive. He wanted to beg her more for Adalaide, but he didn’t suspect a blessing now would count for much. It might even sound like a threat.

Ara

  • Moderator
  • Posts: 905
  • Fantastic!
    • View Profile
Re: The Colorful Stone Kings
« Reply #105 on: April 24, 2017, 10:02:55 pm »
Elleseon’s eyes stayed open but they lost focus despite all her efforts.

She walked through a dying city in a dying Court. It crumbled and burned and everywhere they screamed to be saved but only more death came. The sun rose but Morning was no longer their salvation. Morning had come to take everything they had for one slight that could not, would not, be forgiven.

She found him in one of the last strongholds. She brought down their walls and devoured their guards until all that was left was the Stigmatist and his child. The blue haired girl clung to him and cried but he put her down, leaving her to cry in a corner of marble. She couldn’t even move from the spot where he placed her, her crocodile tears blinding and her body shaking with loud sobs. He knelt to be at Elleseon’s height. He had only one eye and every bit she could see of him was horribly scarred. But that eye, that one eye, was the same color as her own. He nodded slowly, tears in his eye and the saddest smile on his lips. She knew he was her father but she hadn’t expected him to smile at her. She’d come to bring him to his knees for mother and somehow, she had.

“I shouldn’t ask anything of you,” he spoke. It was the first time her father had ever spoken to her. “And I know it is cruel, but you have known worse cruelty.”

She waited, bracing herself for trickery, for an attack or his attempt to escape. He had tried to hide his little stigmatist child from the Morning Court. They’d bred him like a dog to try to get more of them and there she was, already six years old. A pheromone. They said it didn’t run in bloodlines because it was so incredibly rare, but Favia had proven that rule wrong. Somehow he’d hidden her for all that time. They’d only uncovered the secret of her when he planned to have her taken away—someplace safe. Elleseon did not believe that place existed.

“She’s your sister,” his voice cracked, tears running down his cheeks made bright by the fires at her back. “But I can’t go back to Favia. You know, Elleseon, you know.” He swallowed hard, cringing against shame and fear and pain. “Please.” He moved closer on his knees and tensed. His arms wrapped around her and her small face pinched in confusion. He hugged her, his neck bent to lean his cheek into her temple. “I’m so sorry.” His fingers pushed hard into her back, around the Reaping stone he’d helped put in her body, and all the blood they’d pumped from his veins into hers responded to his call. She gasped, the spikes shooting from her body, through her armor, and into his chest. She felt the one that reached his heart graze her own. Her eyes wide with shock and tears. “I love you,” her father whispered before he died. And Adalaide screamed in broken-hearted misery.

Elleseon sucked a breath and her eyes focused on red. She frowned at him, realizing he was holding her hand. Her body hurt but in a more acute, vivid way that said she had indeed survived another encounter with Favia. “You missed your chance.” She sounded a little disappointed but the smallest smirk tugged at the corner of her mouth.

The doors flung open again and Fendin marched in. His prepared frown creased with confusion when he saw Carxer there. Her wounds weren’t the Howlingbird’s doing though. Fendin had seen it enough times to know what it was and been preparing for it as soon as he heard Favia had arrived. Still, he came to tower over the Howlingbird. “Up,” he said stiffly, not liking him so close to her when she wasn’t entirely well.

Verse

  • Posts: 1443
  • blue in nothing
    • View Profile
Re: The Colorful Stone Kings
« Reply #106 on: April 25, 2017, 11:17:16 am »
Alezand did good work. Carxer watched the healer’s pace and it was impressive. They’d not let the Howlingbird prince stay around a less than capable healer. Mostly his attention was on Elleseon. This was quite severe for the mind, as well. He’d seen soldiers fall for smaller wounds because their bodies could not accept the sudden mayhem. She went somewhere else for a few moments, and Carxer thought that might be good, as long as she didn’t stay there. It would seem she’d not lost any of her personality in that dream when she returned. Carxer smiled and squeezed her hand.

“There’ll be more, I‘m sure.” He said as the healer went on to relieve the pain best he could without disturbing the sewing magic. That was always a hard trick. Usually the two didn’t mix well, and Howlingbirds were not prone to ask for more comfort in battle, considering their society. Alezand had not been pressured to learn it very well. To the determent of his freedom, he was somewhat of a prodigy, though. “I trust you’re feeling well enough to rest a little.” Carxer said as Fendin came in with unneeded noise.

Carxer looked up at the protector and then threw a quick glance at Elleseon again. He held on to her hand as he stood before he gave it back to her on her lap. Alezand didn’t even acknowledge Fendin, which was understandable. The healer was making headway in confusing her nerves and swelling her blood supply.

“She said I could see Adalaide.” Carxer lied, and started walking to the side door the brightly haired girl had exited through. It was about half a chance Elleseon would allow it, or either be too addled or too weak to protest. He turned to smile at Fendin over the shoulder, and it wasn’t too smug as he pushed the barrier open. He went to look, and wondered where her chambers might be in this wing. Suddenly impending war seemed irrelevant.

Ara

  • Moderator
  • Posts: 905
  • Fantastic!
    • View Profile
Re: The Colorful Stone Kings
« Reply #107 on: April 26, 2017, 10:02:24 pm »
Elleseon cracked a tired smile at his persistence. Like a chicken that just wouldn’t leave the kitchen. She paid his lie no mind and Fendin sneered, letting him pass. “Try not to rape anyone,” the Morning son called, struggling not to follow when the Howlingbird went roaming through their private quarters. But he had more important things than even Adalaide at hand. He knelt beside Elleseon.

He didn’t dare touch her like Carxer had, but hovered close by watching the Howlingbird healer sharply. He might belong to Morning now, but Alezand was hardly one of their own. Considering everything Howlingbird had pulled in the last few days, a treacherous healer wasn’t hard to imagine.

“You did well,” Elleseon told the healer as though he was finished, finally looking at him. “As long as you keep me from bleeding to death it’ll be fine. It always is.” She assured, realizing that this would all be new for him. Fendin had seen it before, as had the staff, they simply hovered about waiting for her to tell them what to do.

Fendin frowned. She sounded odd. “What are you doing to her?” he whispered for fear of upsetting her. She looked, relaxed, if not a little dreamy.

--

Adalaide was pacing in her room, fingers twisting in a long chain around her neck, rolling the pendant back and forth. Favia was here. Had she gone? Surely she had. Then, Elleseon was probably alone. She finally swallowed and pushed her fears down, launching herself toward the door and out into the private hallway. She made it only a half dozen steps before she saw him, Carxer. In an instant, she forgot her sister. She forgot that she’d boldly left her room to see that she survived, to use her gifts to keep her alive if she was dying. She’d had so many spikes in her already when she left—ran away like the spoiled pet she was.

She forgot her for handfuls of seconds when she saw Carxer and started toward him like he was gravity and air and everything she needed to survive. And then she stopped, tears game to her eye when she realized how easily she’d let everything else go when she saw him. She cringed, chin wobbling, and started down the hall toward him anew, this time aiming to rush past him. “I...I have to help Elleseon…” she mumbled in excuse, hating her heart for the way it screamed agony in passing him and herself for being such a traitor to her own sister.

Verse

  • Posts: 1443
  • blue in nothing
    • View Profile
Re: The Colorful Stone Kings
« Reply #108 on: April 27, 2017, 02:25:17 pm »
Carxer moved faster when he saw her. He felt the moment they were in tune, directed at one another’s heart. If there was a heavier feeling at the tail of his swelling adoration, he denied it. It blossomed like blood on cotton, though, when Adalaide picked a path beside him instead of into him. He stopped and took her arm. The memories of wanting her like vengeance for a profound slight lived through his nerves but he still held on to her. He loved her more than he felt guilty. “I never meant to hurt you, Adalaide.” He said with a breaking voice. He wasn’t War’s son, then, or even its runt. He was just alone, trying not to be. “I don’t know how to ask for your forgiveness, but I want it.” His hand let go, and he would follow her if she went on, toward her sister.

-

Alezand continued to speak with the pain that comes with turning your body into a network of long spaces. She was fast to have him at ease, but he wasn’t swayed by her bravery. Sure, she’d live, but he’d be the shame of his Court, or whoever Court owned him, if he let her be like this. It was beyond him to protest to her though, so he continued to his work, both hands on her chest, and hoped to do it until she protested harder. He turned to Fendin and shook his head as though his chin could swipe away suspicions. “It’s relief. We don’t want her to be in pain.”

Alezand smiled softly as he looked at the princess, her veins and nerves lit from within. It was better if he could carry something genuine into this spell. It made the feeling deeper for Elleseon. He could draw on a reflection of the sensation to calibrate what he was doing. It was odd, delving this deep into her sensory map. He had to take care not to be too zealous. The net of glow was decidedly dark around her hips and thighs. After all, he’d been neglected by Carxer and then not really found himself any intimacy in a while before coming here. He shook the thoughts away, and tried not to think about where he placed his hands and that beneath all the hardness, Elleseon was a beautiful woman.

Carxer’s handprint proved harder to undo than expected. The Prince used a certain kind of magic to burn the gushing wound shut, and the unintentional result was that Alezand, who’d been taught in the Howlingbird court, had to override some locks built into his own craft in order to treat it. The print was also superficial, so it had not been a priority.

Ara

  • Moderator
  • Posts: 905
  • Fantastic!
    • View Profile
Re: The Colorful Stone Kings
« Reply #109 on: May 01, 2017, 04:27:25 pm »
Her skin burned where he held her arm and all the muscles in her body screamed to throw her limbs around him. His words hurt her even more than rejecting that impulse. Her brow pinched and her head shook stiffly. “Forgiveness?” From her? She almost laughed, a sad and tired smile pulling at her mouth. “I have never begrudged you.” But she moved away from him, further down that hall on her path. “But we were wrong. We aren’t just people who can love and be happy, Carxer of the Howlingbirds.” It hurt her to say and her eye begged him to understand. “I am my sister’s weakness.” It was a damnable whisper. A song of Achilles’s heel in the halls of enemies.

“And I owe her better than a young death she should have survived. She would have survived if it weren’t for me.” The image was still haunting—watching her fall from that balcony, thrown over by the hand of her love. No, it hadn’t killed her. It wouldn’t even have hurt her. But it was a terrible display of the road they’d taken. The road Adalaide had run down without a care for Elleseon who must follow. “I can’t do this. I can’t be her death. Not like this.” It was a whisper now, a hiccup of pain in her throat when she forced herself to turn from him and start back down that hall, afraid he’d follow, tears rolling hot down one cheek. Walking away from him felt like diving, deeper and deeper while the air in her lungs ran out.

-

Elleseon mumbled something before she looked past Fendin to the window, watching the beams of daylight in the air. She forgot to be in pain. She forgot to be on guard. She forgot about the love that wounded and the fury of her mother. She smiled thinly, distantly, happily.

Fendin frowned, not sure at all that her relief was a good thing. He’d never seen her look like that. He was about to scold the new healer when he looked down at the work and squinted at a mark burnt into her skin. “Is that…” His teeth clicked. A handprint. There was a Howlingbird handprint on the Morning princess. He hummed an angry note and moved to stand, hand grabbing the hilt of the sword at his hip. To his surprise, Elleseon’s hand stilled his, fingers wrapped around his wrist.

He looked down at her in surprise and sucked in a breath. Her eyes were dark, her chest glowing from the healer’s work. She didn’t look in pain but she wasn’t glassy with the haze of his relief either. “Don’t.” She exhaled the command and his legs obeyed, sinking knees back into the floor at her side.

“He will bring us down before we rise,” Fendin whispered. “This is no game.” He spoke carefully, voice low, forgetting the healer. “I don’t know what you thought this would bring, but it has turned. Let me have him removed. Command me to do it and I will take the axe when it comes.” He swore, staring back at her. His shoulder shook for the effort of that prolonged gaze, like staring into the sun itself.

Elleseon considered him and for a moment he thought, he prayed, she would just nod and let it be done. “No,” she said firmly and all hope was lost.

Verse

  • Posts: 1443
  • blue in nothing
    • View Profile
Re: The Colorful Stone Kings
« Reply #110 on: May 02, 2017, 09:01:29 am »
He thought it was an unfair struggle he’d been thrust into. Beautiful Adalaide, giving him impossible things to withstand. He couldn’t see a world where she believed anything other than the outcome she was set on. “What if there’s a miracle?” he asked. A childish outburst, to claw at her fortified resolve. “What if you pray with me?” he tried as he walked with her. “There are old blood things that we used to believe in, father takes their name in vain when he’s angry.” Times like these, men could seek out even higher powers.  “I can hold my court back or we can wait until there are no more courts, until there’s a new age…” he tried, but his feet were losing speed because hers didn’t. She left him there, a few steps, and he hung his head.

He was by her soon again, walking with her. Such a small thing she was, he’d met with adversaries many times her size, and still he could do nothing to slow her advance. The sorrow turned into frustration. “Adalaide, you’ll end it like this then, our story?” he tried, gesturing with both arms. “Adalaide, don’t.” he continued, some force to his plea. “I’ll pay whatever price, please.” He petitioned when they reached the door. In one last attempt he put his palm to that barrier to keep her from opening it, but he wasn’t formidable in the eye of her decision. “You’re hurting me.” He declared and tried to find her eyes.

-

Fenind was visibly threatening, but Alezand continued doing his work. Things were going rather well. She wasn’t fighting him the way Fendin’s mood suggested she ought. When the handprint became the subject, Alezand quickly covered it with his own hand, smaller, but it seemed too late to spare Fendin’s anger. “It’s not so bad. I can fix it.” A bit of panic, and he even winced a little, afraid to receive Carxer’s punishment.

It felt intrusive to be so close to see Elleseon order her cousin to stand down. The man was not pleased. In the Howlingbird wing, Carxer wasn’t often the source of much frustration. It seemed things were changing. Alezand kept quiet and tried to lose himself into his craft. It resulted in a rather fast mending for Elleseon. “Princess. This ought to suffice.” He said as he looked at his handiwork. Her skin was whole again, but from some angles, with certain light, the shadow under her complexion still held the shape of Carxer’s touch. It should be easy enough to erase, once he’d figured out how. She was still laden with insistent dulling spells, so perhaps she’d be forgiving. The flesh was still nursing itself, inside but she was beyond immediate danger. Strangely, this had been the most satisfying healing Alezand had performed.

Ara

  • Moderator
  • Posts: 905
  • Fantastic!
    • View Profile
Re: The Colorful Stone Kings
« Reply #111 on: May 08, 2017, 11:21:11 am »
She stopped when he said she was hurting him. Her body hitching like she’d been struck and looked up at him with one teary gold eye. “I love you,” she said it like something that had happened to them, like a disaster he had somehow not noticed, as though a hurricane spun around them, tearing down every building and sweeping away every person. “It’s going to kill everyone we know. It’s going to kill me.” She whispered, so close to him that her body leaned closer, that gold eye staring up into his darkness and red. “You’re going to kill me, Carxer.” A tear rolled down her cheek. “And I would happily let it happen. I would let you ruin me and hurt me and destroy me.”

She bit her lip because even now, she was staying in this hall with him rather than walking through that door to see to Elleseon. What if she was already dead? What if she was bleeding out on the floor with no one there at all. “But if I let it kill her too, I wouldn’t be me.” Another tear, her cheek cringing under the weight of it and her hand finding his chest, palm over his stone. It was a shard of her heart, she was sure of it. She couldn’t make him move. She couldn’t even command it of him. “What do you want to do?” She finally asked, voice just as quiet, waiting for him to decide the flavor of her damnation.

-

Elleseon looked down when he said her healing was done. She pulled at the tears in her sweater to see the flesh mended. Everything was stained red now but it had stopped bubbling up. She nodded once. “Well done.” She stood and Fendin to offer an arm. She didn’t take it but he remained close if she staggered from the blood loss. She turned one way and then another, testing the skin before nodding again. It held, tender and fresh, but solid. “Thank you, Alezand.” She started toward the hall to her own room. “I’ll change and then we can go to class, Fen.” She mumbled on her way, still a little drunk on bleeding and healing.

Fendin ground his teeth when he watched her go. There would be more ramifications for today than just blood loss. And he had not failed to notice the shape of Carxer’s hand still on her skin. “If she decides to peel that skin off later, you better be ready to heal it right.” He hissed at the healer, implying he had not healed it right to begin with. A part of him wished she would peel that skin off. It wasn’t right to keep it. Maybe she hadn’t seen it.

Verse

  • Posts: 1443
  • blue in nothing
    • View Profile
Re: The Colorful Stone Kings
« Reply #112 on: May 08, 2017, 01:50:45 pm »
His last plea, which was the most honest, bled from the deepest cut in his heart, did finally stop her, and the relief he felt was almost as painful. The small smile lifting the dread on his face was diluted by the significance of what Adalaide said next. It was all he wanted, but it was agony to her. His fingers circled her face, palms touching her cheeks to desperately try to gather her tears. He was livid in his upset, like a lover trying to keep the other together, piece by piece. “I love you too.” He tried, as though the words were mortar for her crumbling being. It was true but he’d meant to say it in a better way to her. just honesty, now.

He held her to him, and put his forehead to hers. Healer who was breaking apart for their love. He wished he didn’t love her then. To spare her, and spare himself. Only their stone was optimistic when she touched it, warming him, starlight legs reaching out to wrap around her hand through his clothes. He worried about his soul, for having been so selfish. Even now, that she had stopped, he was happy, despite the cost. His mind swirled with solutions for her. He wanted to remake the world so they could exist in it, again.

“What if we marry?” he asked, and it was profoundly self-serving. “What if we make our courts one, or connect them? They might be angry, but couldn’t it be peace sewn together with piano wire?” he kissed her softly because he needed it. “Couldn’t it be that simple? Our strong courts, kept together by their stubborn nature? We could find a common enemy.” Not exactly the heart-felt proposal he envisioned, but they couldn’t afford subtlety between them, today.

-

Alezand was dumbstruck when she offered gratitude. He was so mortified by it he fell down on his knees, stiffly as she stood, not even thinking to help her, arms strictly by his sides as his head dropped. He was half expecting Fendin to beat him for having received her thanks. He winched when Fendin chastised him for something else completely once Elleseon had gone. Alezand looked up at the always ready warrior. “Yes, sir. Of course.” He tried but then quickly dropped his head again. If there were protests in his throat he swallowed them down quickly. “There shouldn’t be any complications with her health, but I’ll stay by. Her body could still go into chock.” Minor things, considering. “I…” he started, trying to deflect the anger welling in the room. “Can I do anything for you, sir?”

Ara

  • Moderator
  • Posts: 905
  • Fantastic!
    • View Profile
Re: The Colorful Stone Kings
« Reply #113 on: May 15, 2017, 01:30:25 pm »
Adalaide closed her eyes, hand to his cheek and lips to his lips. She sighed and leaned her forehead against his. Her dreamer. Her dream. She smiled because his solution was as desperate as her heart felt hearing it, frantic to believe it could work. “Swear it,” she whispered, face to his and breath on his lips. One gold eye opened to look into the darkness of his. “Swear you’ll be as loyal to my court as yours. Swear you won’t let them use me to bring her down. Swear it, and I’ll follow you anywhere forever.”

-

Fendin was still staring down the hall his cousin had disappeared down while the healer spoke. His brow pinched and he looked down in confusion when the other man asked if he needed anything. “Do I look injured to you?” He snapped before sneering and turning away to take the hall in the opposite direction. He needed to make sure the bird found his way out—curious what he was doing here in the first place.

He paused at the door to look back at the healer, really looking at him maybe for the first time. “You understand that the day she dies—the day you can’t heal her—will be the day you die too, yes?” He had been surprised when Elleseon kept the bird healer. She usually offered the healers she was given placement elsewhere. “Royal Mornings take their healers with them to the grave.” Favia kept a dozen. Their executions would be a grand spectacle at her funeral one day. No one was allowed to think about that day—but everyone in Morning did with dreamy eyes. Well, maybe not her dozen healers.

Fendin pressed his lips. Why had he said it at all? Maybe he didn’t like the look on the other man’s face when he tended to Elleseon. Maybe he didn’t like anyone looking to Elleseon like that. He himself didn’t know if it was because he was jealous of them or of her.

Verse

  • Posts: 1443
  • blue in nothing
    • View Profile
Re: The Colorful Stone Kings
« Reply #114 on: May 15, 2017, 09:46:51 pm »
He should have felt anxious at the great task. What hope had he, a leader but not the one the people looked too. A prince when his court wanted warlords. A people that consisted of war. Was he to deny them such a great adversary? But Adalaide had given her conditions, which meant she wasn’t running from him anymore. He laughed miserably, one breath, into her lips. He’d gone to war over trinkets and grass. Why shouldn’t he set on toward peace for love?

His arm took her closer to him, the strength in his hold cementing his determination. “I swear it. My court is yours and yours is mine. You won’t be anyone’s weakness but mine.” He promised and kissed her tightly. It would have been true anyway. He’d already bound himself to this woman.

“Won’t it be glorious?” he said and held her from him a bit, to look at her. He wasn’t entirely happy, because there was gravity in their decision, but he was locked into this endeavor. “Adalaide. We have to act quickly. When Elleseon feels herself again tell her. I’ll tell my father, too, when you do.” Princes in their court were expected to be rash to blood, so why not rash with heart, too. He smiled softly and kissed her cheek, hand on the other. “It’s not so unthinkable that we’d be so reckless.”

-

Alezand retreated a bit when Fendin snapped. The relief he felt when Fendin made to leave was obliterated when he referred to the tied fates of Morning royals and their healers. He’d not considered that. In the Nest Palace healers were only owned as prizes, but used again if the owner died. Alezand had heard about the Morning traditions and rituals. He wanted to ask Fendin for mercy, but that would be ineffective and misplaced. The rules were older than either of them. It was clear Fendin had spoken to inconvenience, though. Alezand dropped his head again, nodding. “Yes sir. I know.”

He balled his hands at his sides, still on his knees. “But she won’t die, sir. Not from this. I saw to that she will be as comfortable as possible too.” Though Alezand could suspect something with Fendin’s heart, it was safer to assume the posturing male was interested in dominance rather than bandaid for his emotions. Perhaps he could please, through that. "I won't tell her how you..." but that would be a stupid thing to say, because it sounded like a threat. "I mean, not that I suspect that you do." His eyes flared. "I mean! Not that I would assume you needed my silence if you did..." his hands came up to proclaim his innocence and protect his face.

Ara

  • Moderator
  • Posts: 905
  • Fantastic!
    • View Profile
Re: The Colorful Stone Kings
« Reply #115 on: May 22, 2017, 01:28:46 pm »
Adalaide clung to him and all her firm decisions to be good to her sister and her court vanished under the dream that their union would make everything else better. She nodded, sprinkling kisses over his face before resting her forehead to his. “Do we have to tell them first? Maybe we should marry first and then tell them, so that there can be no objections. They’ll simply have to accept it.” Her heart was racing, his stone shimmered in reply.

-

Fendin raised a brow in surprise at the healer’s words. Was that a threat? His smile broke cruel across his sharp features. He took steps closer, closing the space between himself and the babbling fool with violent intent but then the boy stopped, hands raised to guard his face.

Fendin broke with a laugh and nodded slowly his forgiveness. The sight of a healer guarding his face of all things, when he could easily heal it later, was somehow too funny. “I don’t know how things worked in Howlingbird—maybe you never had to speak—but you should work on your choice of words if you intend to stay in Morning.” He was still smiling when he said it, gesturing the other man off toward Elleseon’s hallway before turning down the other direction to check on Adalaide and likely kick out another Howlingbird.

Verse

  • Posts: 1443
  • blue in nothing
    • View Profile
Re: The Colorful Stone Kings
« Reply #116 on: May 22, 2017, 05:27:24 pm »
The light that came from their stone filled the valley’s on either side of his throat, a warm, red light dividing his columns when she suggested their course of action. It was foolish. This was the kind of mistake that toppled War Courts and Kingdoms alike. But he had been barreling toward this mistake all his life, as his heart formed for her to take. Pretty Adalaide, asking him to marry her now. If it cost every drop of blood of his people, he would agreed. He nodded with none of the hesitation that should have been there.

“Then come. I know of a ceremonial hall not far from here.” Where any religion would be welcome. The magic there was neutral. He’d gone to honor the few holidays still kept by the Howlingbirds. He took her hand, and if there had been pretense that they were doing it for their people, or Elleseon, it didn’t show in his smile, because it was only for her.

-

Alezand nodded quickly when Fendin became amused instead of insulted. It was the best kind of laughter that he could hope for. “I will, Fendin, sir.” He agreed and then sighed with relief as the Court enforcer moved to leave. Alezand stayed where he was, trying hard not to offend the man before he could go through the door.

As Fendin pushed it open, Alezand saw Adalaide and Carxer turning around the furthest corner. There was no doubt Fendin had seen it too.

-

But Carxer only had eyes for Adalaide as they made their way quickly out of this great wing in search of the right authority to marry them. At this speed, low compared to what he was used to, everything that wasn’t her still melted. When they were out of sight, in a corridor without lining doors, he held her to the wall suddenly.

“Adalaide. I love you.” He said and his breath was strained, as though he’d done battle. It was true that they were each-other’s weaknesses. He fell on one knee. “Marry me, Adalaide of Morning.” His eyes, ominous to enemies, were filled with joy and a wrenching need for her answer. He held her hands, looking up as though her sentence would slay or save him. “Marry me, marry me.” He asked again, squeezing her fingers tighter.