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The Colorful Stone Kings
« on: February 18, 2017, 09:59:51 pm »

It is the age of magic, finally.

It came as our last age, as result of someone inventing a fuel that made us better as a species, as a movement. Without having to go through the effort of moral uprooting and replanting, he had the fortune of goodness, that we applied to the planet. All waste was gone. But our best loved child, War, grew angry under this good age, and she stirred us, like growing children do, against each other.

Somewhere someone ripped open a new concept to bleed onto earth. It was that simple. If the best natural force was at our beckon and call, the winner must have something more. And in twisting our newest tool and weapon, we contorted it into something that was not native to our world, or even the world as it extended outward, endlessly.

War still has her tantrums, and we are still doting, adoring caretakers, but there is nuances on earth now, and they are made bright by the gems that decide our power.

-

The magic has an aesthetic now. Colored stones, usually adorned and framed in metal. Magic runs rampant, and people wield it. Most treasured is the offensive arts, because they decide the fate of any nation. But any direction of magic produces a kind of mineral, and that is what the stones are. Sometimes they fall form the sky, or sometimes they are birthed from wounds like stigmata. Wherever magic is prevalent it leaves traces in the form of gems. Oil on water is particularly powerful, and clear ones are completely drained of their potency to summon magic at all. The gems are an effective way of controlling magic.

The world is made up by courts, and the courts are at war with each other, usually. That doesn't mean they have separate agendas toward other places, when they can work together. I hate you, but we'll see you next month, when we strike a country far from us, yes?

And then the look of the world. We have too much of the old materials, and are inlove with the pretty of our stones. There is no need for technology to remind us of how we used to waste so we could have, so we've escaped into a mid-evil continuum of decor. Knights with blades, pregnant with all manner of stones, and armor with colorful schemes or hen egg-sized treasures. The buildings too, the castles, have silver vines and gemstone fruits. It is beautiful, we think. So the bricks and iron pillars and concrete slabs have been re purposed into great fortresses, and we don't loose ourselves to screens anymore. We honor our families, however vague that endeavor is, and try to stay alive by earning a keep, as always.

And we go to school.

-

Carxer rode the stairs quickly, down. He was a dapper princeling of The Howlingbird Court, with his long black hair that remained wild despite the band that tried to hold it back. Violent heritage, and he had the blithe minerals to prove it. Native to his lands, not far from this esteemed Eseleth Academia, the stones were gunmetal gray, matte, with brilliant ruby highlights. He wore two small ones hanging from his ears, and - some liked to say - their reflection on his lips.

Carxer was a soft boy, the family's gentle flower in a field of barbwire tumbleweed. But among Howlingbirds that was not saying much. A poet with brittle bones to them, who war like it is breathing, could still be a sharp and insufferable someone to most other Courts. He wore casual armor today, which was barely metal on his joints. Most of his tunic showed, and all of his leather boots. Tall for his age, with sword and spear limbs, and black eyes with red rings. What kind of poet he could be, reading with a face like that.

The storm of his hurrying came to stop, and he raised his arms far over his shoulder protection. The halls and its bustle said it was morning, and he was in a good, rambunctious mood, it seemed. He could not worry about how his Court had expanded its lands into some of the disciplines here, and how people from there might hate him for it. Well, he could not always worry about it. "I have a challenge for you." and little petals swirled around his form, red like the stone's shadows. The ruby light gathered into his right wrist, and when he clenched that hand into a fist the light exploded out, like a star exhaling. Surely they would look at him now. "A duel! And if I win you will let me write off your sheets concerning today's manifest in Collaron history." A court that had the same role in magic as did Pandora for the continents. It seemed the Howlingbird only wanted to get off easy from doing homework, which explained the slight fear in his eyes, that had red where there should be white.

"And if you win." he said to the crowd, who may or may not be listening. "Well, then I suppose you're gods and don't really need anything from me."

He was a jester. And most of them knew there wouldn't be famous Howlingbird outrage if they didn't take the challenge. There was an issue of pride, though, and he knew some of them well enough that it might work.

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Re: The Colorful Stone Kings
« Reply #1 on: February 19, 2017, 01:59:02 am »
Tempus of the The Gray Sky Court was quick to take the bait. He was well named—like the ocean itself were his moods. He could be calm and kind and usher you to harbor or playful and pushing like waves against the sand, or he could be fierce and very well try to drown you. He shoved his way from his friends and toward Carxer. He wasn’t much taller but made of colors on the other end of the spectrum. His hair was white like the marble that made up the rough lands of his Court and his eyes a swirling blue like the waters at its shore. He was lean and always wore gloves, something common for his court in the presence of others—to hide the cuts on their hands from a hard living on hard lands. Sometimes the most beautiful things were the ones that hurt.

“And will you kneel to your new god when you are defeated, Howlingbird?” He called, bold for his Court, one subjugated to another since before his birth, but feeling the sting of another as though it was a fresh wound. A bright blue stone was set into the buckle of his belt, large enough to fill the palm of his hand.

The Gray Sky Court was allowed to be bold, because they had much to give in those marble sheets beneath their land and no way to throw off the reigns of The Morning Court.

Elleseon watched from one side of the yard, arm curled around a book and head tipped just enough to show interest and slide strands of pale violet hair over her shoulder. The fine chainmail of her top was studded in little, shining, stones. Ten of them, tiny but lovely. Gleaming amethyst, sapphire, and opals. Specks compared to the opal cuff curled around the cartilage of her left ear. The Morning Court prided itself on balance. War was but a means for peace. All weaker Courts were better for being brought under their protection—or so were the things they liked to say. Peace was their flag, and they flew it over every battlefield.

“What an embarrassing show…” Elleseon heard her cousin say behind her. Fendin was taller than her by nearly a head and had inherited the cruel natures of their bloodline that the rest liked to pretend they never saw. “It’s not like the Howler took Tempus’ land.” She heard his smile around that whisper. “We took that one so very long ago.” The friends nearest to hear it snickered.

She ignored him, not willing to let him spoil the fun, but did try not to smile at the jester.

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Re: The Colorful Stone Kings
« Reply #2 on: February 19, 2017, 02:34:45 am »
Carxer clapped his hands together with relief when the loftier male came close. Good man. The rest of the room, the entrance hall of Eseleth, had already absorbed and forgotten his invitation. At least he'd not been uncivil about it. There were harsher challenges thrown here every day. Carxer rolled his shoulder and met Tempus. "I would have to, wouldn't I?" he offered and blinked his eyes as though he didn't understand the value of the question.

"Question is, Gray Skyer, have you finished the manifest? I don't want to call on Beast's Blood without at least that much for it." he asked, crossing his arms.

It was a lie, of course. He was son of a warring dicipline. Howlingbirds did not worry about overusing their stones, or the offensive spells. Already shards of humming red were floating from the corners of his mouth, upward to his temples, until the petals had formed a jagged crown. The black irises on red sclera held a clearly spoken challenge before he hung his arm, and dressed it in crimson glass, swirling into life from a spell he'd not needed to speak.

He drew a line on the floor behind himself when he readied the conjured weapon to strike, the naked hand out and aming to shove Tempus back. He thought the buckle was lovely, and envied the Morning Court for owning such riches. A conciderate combatant, Carxer brought a slash down from his righ-hand side, aimed to halve Tempus's torso. Even someone from a mining court should be able to anticipate at least that much, and give him some room. This was no task for his full armor, but out of courtesy he grew the prongs of his crown. If he was lucky, he could bring about Tempus's fall fast and effective enough to end this before any lecturer came. This was not proper dueling ground, and frankly, his reason for dueling was worse.

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Re: The Colorful Stone Kings
« Reply #3 on: February 19, 2017, 12:33:34 pm »
Tempus didn’t have a crown. There was no illusion of being king. Blue light, so close to the color of a summer sky, but so far from soft and distant, came from no where. It amassed around his right arm in a heavy gauntlet and when he brought it up, more light burst up from the ground at his feet to meet that slash. Not even the weight of a marble landslide could break that shield. It had been tested. His elbow bent only enough to launch his hand forward, shoving that wall hard into the person space of a war prince.

He grinned and a little of that power softened before it turned into a great wave, churning and overflowing to crash forward—intending to sweep Carxer away and across the smooth floor.

Elleseon smiled. It was always good to see one’s subjects standing tall. So long as they could never stand taller than the Morning Court. Carxer’s power was lovely. She coveted it in secret. What princess didn’t covet a crown? “Maybe we should make Adalaide fight next.” Fendin thought aloud and their adopted cousin looked up from her book for the first time, big gold eyes already uneasy before she even took in the sight of Carxer and Tempus. Her face was round and pale and very nearly lost behind the mass of thick turquoise curls. She had one little stone around her neck, white as milk and cut with seams of gold that matched her eyes.

“Don’t be cruel, Fendin,” Elleseon whispered back, not even bothering to look at the other girl. She was a healer and not much of a good one at that.

“It might spark a coming,” he persisted with a smile.

She almost considered it then, that princess greed was something she battled daily. It wanted for everything—never satisfied with all that she already possessed.

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Re: The Colorful Stone Kings
« Reply #4 on: February 19, 2017, 03:43:04 pm »
The shield was more than enough to bring out Gray Sky defenses. But it hadn't forced Tempus back. Instead it was the bird who'd have to fly. He wasn't about to laugh heartily and roll in the provided blue water, even if the attack was as benevolent as they came. He'd rather not rely on Tempus's good will for homework. Carxer became a red line, tall as himself, drawn back from the curl of the wave. It was almost instant. Howlingbird speed.

His naked arm extended toward Tempus, fingers out, and a rosy rail formed from Carxer's shoulder all the way beyond where Tempus stood. The one rail hung in the air, about the height of Tempus's head. Carxer closed his hand and red clasps connected his shoudler to the rail, and shot him quickly back toward his opponent. His other arm was still clad in Beast's Blood. He reconfigured the spell into a ram supported on three pillars from his elbow. He cocked the strike back and launched it foward when the train that he'd become collided with Tempus.

To his uncle's great horror, Carxer was a romantic fighter, and often used it in place of pleasantries. He'd never dream of hurting Tempus seriously, so he'd built the shell of the ram thin and brittle, so that it would shatter upon impact. It should be enough to rattle if it touched Tempus's jaw, or get through his next shield if this was all a surprise to him, but not both. If a shield was built and it was lacking, then the fist inside the ram would be released from the red spell when ram and shield met, and still be able to fulfil its mission to kiss Tempus's face.

He realized he should be more brutal under the eyes of other great war Courts, but he'd not do Tempus the disfavor.

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Re: The Colorful Stone Kings
« Reply #5 on: February 20, 2017, 03:48:01 pm »
Tempus inhaled, fingers twitching and fanning out. A shield rose up, forming just in time to meet the ram in a lavish burst of lights. Red and blue exploded into shades of purple like the most beautiful bruise and from that bruise came Carxer’s bare fist, raw knuckles grazing his smooth jar. He wasn’t sure if it was the force of the punch of the surprise of that flesh that had him reeling backward. His hand came up to hold his face. Surely not the first time he’d been hit. Bigger, meatier fists had kissed him before but never anything so soft or surprising.

His peel of laughter filled the room, gloved thumb running along his reddened jaw one last time. A part of him hoped it bruised. How could a punch be so intimate? He was quite certain it was his first kiss.

One of his kinsmen laughed behind him, good natured now that he was smiling. “It’s too bad copying Tempus won’t get you a passing grade, Carxer!” The other boy called and a rise of familiar, soft laughter rose with it.

Fendin was unamused, sidestepping his cousin and grabbing up their adopted relative by the arm. Adalaide made an offended sound, holding her book more urgently now—perhaps afraid of dropping it when he forced her to shuffle forward. “If you’re going to play around, Howler, you might as well throw something at this one.” He shoved her into the open space and despite all her efforts not to be moved, she staggered a handful of steps. One of those big turquoise curls fell over a deer eye when she looked at the Howlingbird. She was a Morning Court in name—her own having been demolished and erased. They called it mercy when they adopted her. They called her fortunate. She called it lies—but only in a whisper when no one was near.

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Re: The Colorful Stone Kings
« Reply #6 on: February 20, 2017, 07:40:09 pm »
Carxer had followed his punch. Weavers of magic didn’t get much out of physical ability, but you’d not last long in his family if you couldn’t fight or run or both. He still clung to nothing with that hand, as though it was a sledgehammer attached to his torso. He smiled at the Gray Skyer when he laughed and then winked at the enforcer behind him. Copy, he said. “I’m afraid this room won’t hold my creativity.” He retorted and finally uncurled his fingers. This room was not made for war, and the poet of the Howlingbirds wouldn’t be bullied into full crimson armor. “I do owe Tempus a spanking, though, if I haven’t done enough.” He remembered.

His shoudlerblades sprouted only the starlegs of prisms before he suddenly wore boxy protrusions there, all in ruby. As he breathed, hollows opened up in the back-worn arsenal and spears grew in the depths like wildflowers. The enhancements to his silhouette gave him a hulking gait. “Now, let’s get me those grades, yes?” he said and offered the blade of the hand that had struck him toward Tempus, that he would come at him.

But before the boys could go on being exactly that, a healer was tossed into the imagined. The red in Carxer’s eyes stormed around the black when he looked over at Fendin. This was political, now, because The Morning Court was also heavily invested in war. He pulled one of the spears, poised to fire, from his quivers, and tossed it to spin thrice before it would be available to be caught by her. He’d done what Fendin said. “Sending your champion, I see.” He remarked. “You can punish the looser.” To Adalaide. He nodded at Tempus. “I’m not apt enough in our magic to meet you in combat, Adalaide.” She was a healer, it wasn’t an insult, nobody expected her to fight. “You can have a try any day, though, Fendin. You I can handle.”

Small bursts that made red smoke sent the crystalline spears on their way, a handful of them. They whistled and sought Tempus out from above. If they should hold his attention, Carxer formed another ram, two pillars, and darted forward, hoping to duck under Tempus’s attention with the flying diversion, and land a good hard punch in his gut. He swung.

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Re: The Colorful Stone Kings
« Reply #7 on: February 21, 2017, 04:32:03 pm »
Her book hit the floor. It was heavy and she winced, not for the sound but because she had dropped it. How could she not? She’d caught the spear with both hands—awkward and uncomfortable still even as she held it still. It hummed under her fingers and against her palms, making her cheeks warm.

Tempus barely had time to smile at the display. He appreciated acts of kindness and detested those of cruelty. The spears not in her delicate hands had shot toward him—not with the same casual twirls or intentions. He dodged, leaping and twisting away, shields bursting up from his rolls of his arms to slow the spears and deflect them as they fell. His moment of success was quickly squashed, catching the red ram from the corner of his eye and lifting his hand too late. Jagged stones of blue light burst up from the ground in front of him, as though it would be a shield though it was too late to rise high enough and save him from that punch. It wasn’t a shield though. It burst upward violently, coming up under Carxer just as his body stretched forward with his fist, aiming to catch him in the chest.

The ram hit him hard, knocking him right off his feet and throwing him back. He tumbled beautifully—much nicer than his older relatives with their heavy frames and bulky limbs. When old Gray Skys fell, the world shook. Or so they liked to say. Tempus had always liked the saying. His father had been one of those hulking Gray Skys. And when he fell for the last time, Tempus was certain the world shook for it. His work shook for it.

He landed on his back, eyes somehow still open, and blinked at the ceiling. Something was missing. Something was odd. And then he started breathing again all at once, sucking air in and feeling the pain of his chest resonate through his body.

Adalaide cringed, holding her borrowed spear tighter now.

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Re: The Colorful Stone Kings
« Reply #8 on: February 22, 2017, 06:27:36 pm »
The ram followed through. Carxer felt it through the Beast’s Blood. A last attempt from Tempus, as he was thrown by the blunt force, reaching up from the floor, caught the Bird that bit down on reflexive announcements of having been hit. When he looked over at Tempus, horizontal now, he wore cuts on his neck and on his face, his torso enveloped by armor that took the blunt of the blue shard. The red plates faded to a diluted pink and then they were gone, crown and all, leaving the silver metal and its grim stones. He smirked softly and walked by Tempus, leaning down as he passed, patting him on the shoulder as he got his breath back. “I’ll find you later, for your manifest.” He promised and winked. The Gray Sky Court might not be the best at fighting, but their ability for defensive magic was still treasured to War Courts. A good addition to any artillery. The Morning Court had done right in claiming them.

He found his way quickly to Adalaide and leaned down to look her in the eye. The cuts were fresh on him as he wrapped fingers around the spear he still kept in existence for her. “I think I’d rather you help me out with these, come to think of it.” He said and pulled at the weapon so he could have it and hold it behind his back. It would disappear quickly. His face, with the cruel bones of his lineage lifting up the soft expression that was his own, came closer to the healer, waiting for her attention to the cuts. For a small instance, he looked to the side, where Fendin was with his cousin, and showed him his canine in an asymmetric taunt before returning eyes to Adalaide.

“Kill him, yes?” someone said from behind, and Carxer rolled his eyes without turning. From the stairs Millium came, looking around on the closing puddle of people. Taller than Carxer, Millium still had youth’s slender limbs, and a darker metal for his armor. He was more of a Howlingbird archetype. “Obviously this is a conflict now.” Black hair tied back, shining, and the same red sclera as Carxer. Millium was son of the uncle that liked to scold Carxer for his softness. Millium enjoyed that pastime, too. A scythe with three blades shot out of his hand and he spun it around his forearm once before catching it, grown to its full length. The construct was dense, like a glass vessel filled with blood, not like the transparent things Carxer conjured for sparring. “Would you like to war by champions, or should I do you the courtesy of calling on my army?” he stood over Tempus with all the intent of his words directed at Fendin.

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Re: The Colorful Stone Kings
« Reply #9 on: February 22, 2017, 08:36:38 pm »
Adalaide held her breath when he leaned in, staring back at those black on red eyes. She held the spear tight, too tight, straining her knuckles before his words registered and a blush spread her cheeks.

Elleseon looked away so as not to roll her eyes. She really did hate her cousin for pushing the girl forward. What did he expect? It looked as though they were trying to torture her—which wasn’t something they needed to try at. No. Elleseon was true to her bloodline and their favorite ways. The goal was always to look kind. Benevolence tasted best, even on a field of corpses, even when crushing the weak.

Adalaide gave back the spear by opening her hands, his face still so close that she couldn’t stop the heat from her round cheeks from spilling down her long neck. “Oh,” she said in the quietest whisper, more to herself. Jarring herself. She swallowed and for a moment the gold in her eyes would be almost liquid, too bright, too real. Small whispy creatures trailing the white light they were made of fluttered close to his face. They came from seemingly nowhere, making the softest sounds—like distant bells or sweet voices whispering. She blushed harder when they kissed his face, touching wounds before drifting away again. His flesh healed easily, shallow cuts fading and not a drop of blood left behind.

Adalaide hadn’t looked away, wasn’t able too until that other voice stormed the room. She flushed and ducked her head at the hateful sound Fendin made behind her. He grabbed her shoulder and pushed her when he started forward, green gems gleaming and something nasty curling over his knuckles with very solid looking spikes. Before he could push past, Elleseon raised a hand and stopped him in his tracks. If anyone paid notice, they would have seen him pale at the gesture.

“Your army?” Elleseon was first to speak, voice cutting the room and tone chilling anyone that heard it. She wasn’t amused anymore. And if Elleseon, eldest child of the Morning Court was not amused, no one should be. “Do you, boy, command an army?” She felt cruel and it felt good, she fought it usually but not so much when looking at Millium over Tempus with his weapon of choice. “If you want to play champion of Howlingbird, then we can fight. What will I get when I win? Your life? Or your court? Because you will not have my ally while he lies wounded on the floor.” Oh yes, she liked when it sounded noble. Mother liked that too. There had to be reasons no one ever escaped the Morning Court—reasons other than never standing a chance once they were folded into the dominion.

She took steps forward, into the small clearing and toward them. With each step the ground shuddered. Those behind her would see the purple scales of a spine layering over her own. Her hand rolled fingers through the air and those digits became clad in a dark purple glove of claws, nearly black, stretching up the her elbow. “So eager to fight, Millium, when the duel was already over.” She continued to speak and the windows groaned in their frames, icing over with beautiful fans of crystals. Breaths now puffed out clouds and a dark shadow grew around her eyes.

Fendin was holding his breath now and Adalaide, without thinking, had reached out to take Carxer’s hand—as though she would drag the boy away from the scene if Elleseon’s temper finally broke—as though a little healer would save a war prince through cowardice.

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Re: The Colorful Stone Kings
« Reply #10 on: February 23, 2017, 08:42:35 pm »
Carxer was surprised over the skill in her magic. Healers weren’t a very well treated lot in the Howlingbird Court. They were sold as slaves, even if they cost a pretty penny. The flower of the court was of course known for treating them like people. He’d seen a few mending spells, but he understood why Adalaide got to be part of the Court by name. He smiled into her blush as she put him back together entirely. Worried wrinkles folded between his eyebrows when she was wrenched away, but then there were more severe matters to deal with.

Millium was delighted. Finally some of the battlefield’s heartbeat, here in this forsaken, soft place they’d sent him. This was an adversary he could treasure. He wouldn’t have to finish all those damned classes if he was the reason for war. And what a war it would be. The little dragon princess, come to see if she could back him down. One of the blades on his scythe touched the floor, which meant the middle one was at Tempus’s throat. “I command the greatest army, Elle.” He said and twisted his hand to clap the broad side of the blade against Tempus’s skin. “But don’t take my word. Have a taste of it yourself.” With a good pull, he could take Tempus’s head off and lodge all three blades into Elleseon.

Carxer turned around to look at Adalaide, and shook his head politely at her intention. He squeezed her hand once and then let go. “Hey, if you kill him there goes my home work!” he said and went to his cousin, wedging in between the two posturing. He shoved Millium off Tempus but kept his scowl. “She’s right. I won this fair and square. What right do you have for my prizes?” he demanded. “If you want war, then lovely, have it, but don’t impair my ability to get a good grade with it.” Harsh for Carxer. He did not value his own comfort over anyone’s life, but this was the only jargon that could hope to reach Millium. He’d fought a kingdom over their salt, shooting at them from the sea.

Millium didn’t move his macabre eyes from Elleson as his cousin went on. His arm flexed and spikes grew from the weapon he was holding all the way to his arm. Such a dark red. “You should be thankful Carxer is such a spoiled little infant.” He said before all Beast’s Blood on him turned into dust. “And that his mother is my aunt.” He dropped his shoulders and immediately struck Carxer in a stone in his shoulder armor. There was a single flash of crimson. Millium laughed. “How did you get the Howlingbird blood?” And then he went up the stairs again.

Carxer sighed and looked at the Mourning Court and all their following. He shrugged. “You should see him at family dinner.” When others around laughed, he locked eyes with Adalaide. “I suppose I’ll see you in history.” He said it loud for everyone to hear, but it was for her. He helped Tempus up.

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Re: The Colorful Stone Kings
« Reply #11 on: February 23, 2017, 08:43:26 pm »
Elleseon did not like the sound of a nickname on his Howlingbird tongue. She had split a smile when he called his army the greatest, and the darkness spread from the edges of her eyes inward like ink spilling over into water. The purple of her irises fought back, sizzling with electric heat. Some courts were told by their elders to play nice in school—even to make friends for the future of their lands and people. If they were friends, they might be shown mercy. If they were friends, treaties and talks might go smoother.

Elleseon was not told to make friends. She was not told to be careful of starting a war. The Morning Court did not fear war—it had always served them well. The only thing she had ever been told, was to live up to her court. And she would. She would live up to it, or die for it. Disappointment surged through her veins when he retracted his weapon, when Carxer intervened. It was diplomatic. It was well done. But something in her chest, deep in her heart, wanted to see Millium bleed. Not just that, more than that—she wanted to see fear in his eyes.

Her lip twitched when he walked away, fighting the urge to stop him, to antagonize him. It wouldn’t look good. It would look like bullying. Like an ill temper. Like she didn’t have control. Her fingers twitched and those claws grew longer before the whole glove finally vanished, along with the spine up her back and the black in her eyes. The frost lingered, taking seconds to melt. She managed a smile for Carxer when made light of his relative to ease the situation back to normalcy. But her smile faltered when she looked to him only to find him looking at Adalaide.

Adalaide, who blushed in reply. He was being kind, Elleseon decided. She too liked to play that role, and went to help Tempus up from the floor. He took her hand and she helped him up. She didn’t offer any advice or disappointment for his loss. It had been a good spectacle and he had entertained. The Gray Sky were a good stone in her crown and she wouldn’t dim their light with unnecessary words.

Adalaide held her hand a moment longer, the one that had grabbed his, the one he had squeezed. He had squeezed it hadn’t he? What had possessed her to reach out and take his like that? She would have been overcome with embarrassment if he hadn’t been so casual about it—if his eyes hadn’t found her again afterward. Her gold spheres widened at that, head ducking as though to hide her face in the overflow of turquoise curls. At least, she picked up her book, hugging it to her chest and let the stream of students draw her in a current toward the next hallway and classroom. Fendin hesitated, something in his eyes gleaming, wanting to jab Carxer with words or sharp objects but finally wrinkled his nose and hurried to follow their adopted cousin. Couldn’t leave her out of sight for long. Not ever. They paid one of the other healers in subject driven classes to watch her then, with threats stronger than money to keep them true to their word. Adalaide was worth too much, even if she was a healer. She had been worth the death of a Court and the Morning would not let her go.

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Re: The Colorful Stone Kings
« Reply #12 on: February 24, 2017, 04:36:23 pm »
Carxer eventually found himself on his way, too. It was not unusual to have spats like these in Eseleth Academia. He supposed all institutes of learning contained a certain level of hormones. How many wars had started in these halls, how many on the grounds outside? There had been peace too, when key hearts reconciled, coming of age together. He would have to lean on that, and not linger on the fact that his own game could have been the death of so many soldiers. If he was raised to love his Court and see it expand, he would gladly sin by loving the soldiers instead. A useless member of his blood. But a prince.

Millium laughed when he went in to his quarters. The sound was strained. A grand place, the size of a home to others. Like his ilk, he adored trinkets and weapons, and they were hung on the wall to show whomever visited who he had fought and conquered. A rock splattered with blood from his own courtmen, a weapon of those who could speak to the minerals, was lifted by his armored arm and then impaled on spikes that gauntlet grew. "Weak-nosed bastard." he muttered first, as the dust poured with so many chunks of hard stone. He slammed the remains of the boulder into the floor and left it there, in the cracks of the black marble. "Fucking feeble hearted mouse!" he roared.

Agifax was short grown but could garden a magnificent goatee. He came out of his chambers to see to his master. "What's wrong?" he asked, and stood close. His stone was almost transparent, with a streak of green captured in it. It hung on a necklace over his forest green clothes. Millium threw his arm at Agifax and Agifax collided with the nearest wall, rupturing a wooden shield that was already missing its middle prong of three. The stone glowed and Agifax was not broken. Millium was a cruel master, but had seemed generous to Agifax when he'd first received the stone. Immortal, like any prisoner of hell.

"Sorry about this." Carxer mumbled as he turned his head back to Tempus's manifest after he'd found him once the collective memory had displaced the scene of the morning. He wrote as fast as he could. "I really did just want your help, and I was feeling energetic." It wasn't really Howlingbird behavior to apologize, but Carxer was never rude if he could help it. "But I suppose you did loose fair ans square." he added with a grin. After all, Carxer was still a boy. "Don't suppose you've heard anything from Morning?" he did not directly ask about Adalaide, on merit of being a boy, too, but he'd listen if something should slip from Tempus.

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Re: The Colorful Stone Kings
« Reply #13 on: February 25, 2017, 03:24:26 pm »
Tempus smiled curiously at the Howlingbirds words. He had won fairly. A bet was a bet and Tempus wasn’t one to begrudge the winner for his bounty. He reclined in his chair until only two legs were still on the ground, his own boots on the edge of the table and long legs stretched. He teetered comfortably. “I’m not much of a tutor anyway. If you want my grades you’re better off pummeling me in the hall.” He smiled wide, the only way he knew how, gloved fingers threaded together behind his skull. “At least that cousin of yours only showed up at the end.” He laughed a little, remembering that scythe at his throat. It would have been worse if the fight wasn’t already over.

His precarious rocking on two legs almost went too far when Carxer mentioned the Morning Court. He managed not to fall but then wished he had just to change the subject. The Morning Court was dangerous, even more so because they wore smiles and pretended to be friends with their captives. “They keep us all close enough to hear plenty.” He remarked. Gray Sky Court wasn’t a fearful one. They had never been ones to cower or run. They were wall builders and ground demolishers. They were of use to any court that had claim to them and that use bought them all a certain degree of freedom. Tempus was the only son of the former high lord of Gray Court. The rest of his elder relatives cared for the seat now, but he was as a precious to them as any stone they pulled from the ground and Morning knew it well.

“Millium certainly got Elleseon riled up.” He cracked another smile and lowered his voice. “She was on the fields of war at the age of 6, you know? They don’t like when it comes up because of how terrible it sounds—taking a child to the killing field—but she was too useful to leave behind and you know how her mother is.” His lips pressed with something far from a smile. Favia of the Morning Court had a terrifying reputation. No one would be surprised that she used her own child in a battle if it brought her the victory.

Tempus found his smile again, rocking his chair on those two legs. “You would have enjoyed the tantrum Fendin threw, I suspect. Broke a window and tried to blame that little healer for her role in the morning. Like fixing your pretty face was what lost me the duel or gained Millium’s attention.” He snorted. “He’ll get himself killed before he even gets out of the academy…”

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Re: The Colorful Stone Kings
« Reply #14 on: February 26, 2017, 03:29:26 pm »
Carxer's handwriting was excellent. There was schooling before they came here, and there was so much incentive to learn things back home. If not for their healers, Carxer would have been an atlas of scars. Tempus wrote well too, which was fortunate. Some of the attendants would choose style over readability, since no one dared squint at royal writing, while the writing itself was expected to be fanciful in form. "Millium isn't overly aggressive in our Court, not as far as belligerence goes, but he is rather determined." he informed with a sigh. "I've learned a few short-cuts through his campaigns at war, but that's at home. Here he can actually do some damage to our relations."

Carxer smiled to himself about the early age of Elleseon's debut on the battlefield. Howlingbirds were raised close to bloodshed too, but it wasn't common to be of any use until you'd properly been bonded to the blithe stones, and then you very likely wouldn't be as decisive as Elleseon would have been. "I'm not too familiar with her mother." It was odd that court which such a serene facade should have a head that wanted more from the heir than his own father, whom was infamous for spoiling Carxer.

The ink hitched an ugly line on the paper when there was talk of Adalaide. There was need for subtlety, and Carxer rubbed his temple as he pretended to think very little of the new piece of gossip. He even laughed easilly and went about copying the manifest, which was drawing to its conclusion. They'd chosen Tempus's room, which wasn't bad for someone who wasn't directly royal. "Yes, he is quite a character, Fendin. I think it's the combination of him and my cousin that is so flammable." he said and then mumbled under his breath, as though the next few words wouldn't be important at all.

"So, how is the healer? I suppose Fendin didn't hurt her right?"

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Re: The Colorful Stone Kings
« Reply #15 on: February 26, 2017, 04:19:16 pm »
Tempus stopped rocking, eyes glued to the Howlingbird and head tipping curiously. For a brief, second his brow pinched and his mouth curled. “Hurt her? He wouldn’t dare! Not unless—” He stopped talking abruptly and the legs of his chair met the floor again. This wasn’t commonly known information, he realized all at once. Oh, it was well and common among anyone under the Morning Court. An entire Court had burned for that little girl. But the Court that burned had already been one of their own, under their flag, and so it had been easy to wipe them out and erase them from history when they rose in dissension for that child.

Sooner or later everyone would know. They’d brought her to the academy for just that purpose, hadn’t they? To make it known in whispers what they had. To treat it like it was normal so that they could be outraged if anyone tried to take her—so that they could treat her as one of their own children rather than their captive and show her off like a gem of her own in their crown.

Tempus hated how much plotting went into Morning Court actions. It was tedious. He quirked a smile. “Why do you care about a healer, Howlingbird?” Tempus’s smile twisted a little at the edges with a temper that came and went like the wind. “I’ve heard how healers are treated in your lands. You offered her nice words this morning… but I thought that was just to upset Fendin. Was I mistaken?” He laughed at it himself, like it had been a joke. "I like you well enough Howlingbird, so if you mean to upset your family with a tryst, might I suggest any other healer than that one?" His lips grew coy and his eyes sparked mischief. "Or a Gray Sky..."

-

Adalaide couldn’t pay attention in class. She couldn’t stop thinking about the boy in the hall, with eyes like rubies in a dark sky. She still couldn’t believe she’d grabbed at his hand like that. Her cheeks hadn’t stopped blushing since. Her heart pounding a heavy drum against her chest and making it impossible to listen to the instructor ramble on. Usually she enjoyed rambles.

She was warm and when she looked up, her vision seemed seconds behind. All at once, she realized that her heart wasn’t just racing because of Carxer like she’d thought. She was too warm, and sound and light rolled over her like waves, making her cringe. No. No, not again. She saw Demi two seats to the side, paid to keep an eye on her. He looked worried and that made her stomach knot. She stood up and before the teacher could berate her, the woman’s face creased in worry. She mouthed words that Adalaide couldn’t hear.

The healer left the classroom, forgetting her book, and stumbled out into the hall. Everything hurt, her blood rushing violently in her veins, and she heard the sound of Demi’s voice. She couldn’t make out the words but she could tell from the pitch of it that he was upset. She pushed her way into the bathroom and grabbed onto the sink before she could fall, looking at herself in the mirror. Her pupils had grown to swallow the gold of her irises. Nothing but black now. And her skin had lost all color—a sickly grey coated in sweat. “No. No.” She exhaled. She would have shook her head but she was sure the motion would make her puke.

She closed her eyes and tried to calm herself. It was okay. It was going to be okay. It always was in the end. When she opened her eyes again it wasn’t her own she stared at, but those of Elleseon standing behind her. Panic lanced her heart anew and tears welled up in her blackened eyes. “No.” She exhaled.

“Where is it?” Elleseon demanded, voice cold the way it always got when she was decided. She had known there would be a reckoning for that beautiful display of magic on Carxer’s face. It had been so long since the last that Fendin had even joked about their fountain running dry. Elleseon knew better. She’d spent most of her life with Adalaide. Her gifts came and went, sometimes plentiful and sometimes with no bounty for months or years. Those hollow months and years were the ones where her heart grew sad and empty—the ones when they’d tried locking her away. Elleseon had been right to bring her out into the world. She had been right about what would bring them more and her mother would know it soon. “Where is it?” She shouted this time. Somewhere, outside the door, Demi flinched and looked around the empty halls, guarding the bathroom and trying hard to pretend he didn’t know what was going on.

Adalaide shook her head but already Elleseon was one her, running hands over her arms and waist and sides. Up her back and over her shoulders, pushing into plush flesh and stopping at her collar when she felt that little bump. Adalaide cringed, pushing her off and twisting around. Her words caught in her throat when she saw the knife Elleseon now held. It was always like this wasn’t it? Then why did she always fight it?

It was no trouble for Elleseon to tackle her to the ground, even with her struggle. A scream tore up from her throat when that thin knife dug into her collar, scraping bone before pushing up the stone there beneath her flesh. It came up gory and red, little though precious. Elleseon thumbed the blood away but it was red through and through, gleaming like one of Carxer’s eyes. She smiled and it was a horrible grin. She would have hated if anyone saw it—would have hated to see it herself—but oh how good it felt to let it out.

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Re: The Colorful Stone Kings
« Reply #16 on: February 26, 2017, 04:51:40 pm »
The last line of characters rephrasing Tempus on his own paper were crude. His concentration was collecting elsewhere. Unless what, he wanted to ask, and shake the tempest. Veins lived on his blackness as long as lightning on, indeed, a gray sky when there was pure anger in the otherwise pure heart. He caught it soon, that it wouldn't darken and fortify his constructs. He wasn't his cousin, and the court would be all too proud of him if the brilliant ruby magic he wielded was suddenly somber. But he did want to lift Tempus, run through on red spears, and have him tell him what circumstances would make Fendin lay a finger on Adalaide.

"Hm? Unless..." he invited for Tempus to finish at his leisure. A question instead. "Why do I care about a stormer?" he said with a reminding smirk. I stood over you and shoved my own blood before. But he had to nod when the subject became the market of healers in his homelands. "I appreciate a good healer, as does any Howlingbird, so I don't mean to cause her grief because I was trying to offend her warden." All of it was true enough. He waved his hand at the paper so it would dry at a faster pace. Eseleth provided printers, but he was already rather open with cheating today, better not have the school's sigil on here, too.

Carxer looked Tempus up and down at the last suggestion. It was a simple matter to hook his boot into the chair that had been weighing on its destiny, anyway, and hopefully have Tempus fall on his back. Carxer would sit on his knees beside Tempus, if he was surprised or simply went with the game. He looked down at the boy he'd already felled once today. "Are you offering, little storm cloud? Or do you have another healer for me?" he'd stroke that light hair. A good distraction from the topic, and perhaps this or another Gray would know more about Adalaide. Many talked when run through with other things than spears, after all.

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Re: The Colorful Stone Kings
« Reply #17 on: February 26, 2017, 08:34:17 pm »
Tempus grinned when the other boy took the legs out from under his chair, holding on to the arms and falling back rather than grabbing the table to steady himself or flipping his limbs right out of the seat. No, sometimes Tempus liked to fall. He exhaled when the back hit the floor, his back still in the chair and his pale blond hair splayed across the carved wood. His lips had just parted to inhale when that Howlingbird leaned over him. It wasn’t entirely fair. He’d accused the bird of wanting to upset his family with bad behavior—when in truth Tempus wasn’t opposed to upsetting the Morning Court with a little of his own.

“Depends on what you’re looking for. I fear, if you want your wounds mended, all I can do is lick them.” He grinned and it was wolfish.

A clattering of sound echoed up the twirl of stairs toward the door to his chambers. “Temp! Tempus!” An all too familiar voice crowed. The door was thrust open and his kinsmen burst in. “The Morning healer—” He blurted out, winded, before he took in the scene and noticed the Howlingbird. He paled instantly, lips pressing shut and eyes wide in horror at possibly having let something slip that Tempus or the Morning Court would have rather kept to themselves.

Tempus glared at the other Gray Sky, not sure if he was more angry for the slip up or for the intrusion.

--

Adalaide had kicked at the floor until she was propped up with her back to the wall. She watched, panting, as Elleseon rinsed the new stone off in the sink. There was so much blood from that little wound, staining the front of Adalaide’s white dress, splattered and smeared on the tile floor, and staining Elleseon’s fingers. Yet somehow, she cleaned the stone.

Adalaide looked on, like a mother straining to see her child before it was taken from her. It was red. She’d never made red before.

“Well done,” Elleseon said, voice carefully cool. “You’ve made your Court proud.”

Adalaide gave a tired smile, another tear rolling down her cheek. Her Court was dead. They’d died for those stones. She pushed herself to her feet, hating how much better she felt in the wake of the birth. She had her own color again, though a little pale for the blood loss.

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Re: The Colorful Stone Kings
« Reply #18 on: February 26, 2017, 09:06:54 pm »
Carxer's hand was on Tempus's chest and sliding lower, his grin having faded to something more anticipatory. They already knew who won the fight this morning. Would they have to tumble for who'd whimper and who would moan now? And how much fun would it be? Sometimes the subjugated like to be the throne of flesh. Carxer thought the pretty blond would look gorgeous in his lap.

"Then let's see what places have the most blood for your tongue." Carxer said and examined the texture of Tempus's thigh.

His other hand followed the turn of a curl on the floor all the way up to the scalp that sprouted it. Carxer was kind for any royal, a saint for hailing from his particular court, but he liked to be stern when it came to a good toss. He'd not wanted to be deflowered in front of his younger relatives, when they took him among members of conquered Courts that had pleasure magic, but he'd not let it become a phobia either. He'd not learned many other ways to practice his will among sweat and skin.

Their plans were interrupted by a rather upset person. Carxer smiled in a strained way at first, seeing the upset in the eyes of the guest. Then when the news came half-way out the gossiping mouth, Carxer let go of Tempus completely. He stood, hand under Tempus's back to have him sit again, and strode over to the other. He pushed the Morning man inside and closed the door, crossing his arms and nodding to the recently vertical Stormer.

"Well, tell him." he insisted, hoping the momentum of his presence, and a healthy helping of annoyance would be able to win him whatever information the other man had come her with.

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Re: The Colorful Stone Kings
« Reply #19 on: February 26, 2017, 09:43:41 pm »
Tempus was left drawing somewhat uneven breaths, sitting upright again and bereft of Carxer’s warmth and dangerous intentions. He might have to punch his friend—the one with the saucer big eyes and flushed cheeks standing near the door like a complete idiot. He was looking utterly panicked, eyes snapping back and forth between Tempus and Carxer. Tempus gave a little shake of his head to warn the boy to keep his information to himself but it was too late. Even he could see it. He was practically busting to tell and the pressure of a Howlingbird demand was more than that particular Gray Sky was ready for.

His eyes said he was sorry but his mouth opened to pour out words. “The Morning healer fled her class. Elleseon followed from the halls and…” He swallowed. Poor boy, so young and so excited, he couldn’t keep the words back. “Madan heard her screaming down the halls and Elleseon… she cut it from her. She bore a stone.”

Tempus cringed and looked away. He had hoped Adalaide was dried up. It had been nearly a year since the last rumor of her giving a gem. He’d hoped for it, not just to spite the Morning but in some pity for the healer. If she wasn’t of use, they might put her away someplace safe but out of sight. They might leave her be. He sighed and picked up his water goblet, previously ignored on the table and looked up to see Carxer where he stood. “As I said, bird, you could have any healer but that one.”

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Re: The Colorful Stone Kings
« Reply #20 on: February 26, 2017, 10:19:23 pm »
The young Gray was informative enough. Carxer kept calm as the gossip was spilled and smiled in a way that was interested but not invested. In the end, he looked over at Tempus and lifted a brow. "I suppose you're right. Don't think Morning will hold a Stigmatist very loosely." he said with a shrug that was slightly disappointed. He found his way past the guest and over to Tempus. Leaning over, he gave the Stormer a smile, so close he might be aiming for the other lip of the goblet before he swept up the parchment instead.

"Thanks for the notes." he said and turned. The new Gray was still breathing in relief from having delivered the news. Carxer patted him on the shoulder and he moved out of his way. "History starts soon. Be a shame if you didn't come and I accuse you of copying my work when you do." he said and left something taunting in his eyes for Tempus before he went out the door.

Carxer folded up the manifest quickly and hurried through the corridors in the most casual way he could manage. Everyone knew where the wings meant for living hosted the more affluent Courts. Usually, dominant war mongers were placed far away from each other. He had to pretend not to be in a hurry for quite a while, then, before he found himself in the corridors that were littered with crests and emblems of Courts that belonged to Morning. He supposed he was looking for anyone that could be expected to know where Adalaide was. Larger doors usually meant larger egos inside. He opened one of black wood that reached a good bit toward the ceiling.

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Re: The Colorful Stone Kings
« Reply #21 on: February 27, 2017, 11:58:26 am »
Elleseon stood at the large desk in her quarters. The perfect stone sat on the surface, on a square of black silk. Fendin walked anxious circles in the room, trying not to linger too close while she wrote her mother. The letter was as formal as an ‘I told you so’ could get with heaps of respect and promises to bring yet more glory to their Court.

“It can’t be that.” He insisted, the way he had for the last few minutes since she explained her suspicions. “Anything but that.” He shook his head.

It was a relief, to know that she hadn’t been wrong in bringing Adalaide to the academy. That she hadn’t been wrong to expose her to people outside their own Court. She folded the silk over the gem and placed it inside a small iron box with the letter. After closing the lid, she ran her thumb along the sharp seam, cutting flesh and binding the box shut with magic to protect it until her own blood could open it again.

“Where is she?” Elleseon asked absently, only now noticing how her fingers were still red with blood, spots of it staining her clothes. She started undressing on her way to one of the large closets.

“I had the nurse see her in my room.” It was one of the closest to the front of the hall of Morning Court rooms and they’d wanted to get her stitched up as soon as possible. A shame, healers could heal so much but could do nothing for Stigmatist wounds. He felt Elleseon’s unease prickle the air, making things degrees colder. “The staff would inform us if she showed signs of another offering.” He reminded.

“We should celebrate.” Elleseon decided, pulling on a short flowing dress in place of the top she’d discarded. A maid came quickly to pin chainmail into her hair, a handful of stones in those metal links, before carefully picking up the coverlet of chainmail and stones she’d taken off.

“A party?” Fendin was somewhat less anxious and more interested now. “Will you be celebrating your success then?”

She smiled despite herself. “We’ll be celebrating another glorious day.”

He nodded. “I’ll tell the staff to get it ready and spread the word through the loyal courts.”

She bit the inside of her lip and turned to get his attention before he could go. “Invite all the courts.”

Fendin stood still, staring back at his cousin. “Elle—”

“Do it.”

“Even if she—” Her stare was hard and he conceded before he could even get out the sentence, biting back fury and ducking his head before leaving.

--

Adalaide couldn’t stop thinking about the color of that stone. Was it a coincidence that all she’d thought of for the hour before it’s birth was the color of his eyes? Had a part of her known? Or had she made it red?

She pulled on a sweater, dark gray, one of Fendin’s the staff had brought out for her to change into. The scoop neck failed to cover up the bright white bandage against her collar. It was going to leave another scar—one she’d be hard pressed to cover up. Elleseon was always too eager when she cut a stone from her. She always made a mess of it and left her with scars.

Adalaide sighed, forehead to the cold mirror. She’d hoped it was done but she’d known, somehow, that she had more stones left to give. All at once she remembered the book she’d left in class. Class. She had history soon. Carxer was in that class.

She left the dressing room and made a straight line for the door.

“You should wait for his lordship to return,” the butler said from behind where he was cleaning up blood from the sofa.

“I’ll be late for class. I’ll meet him there.”

“Miss—”

“There’s people everywhere. It’s not like I’m running away.” She reached for the door but it swung open before she could, throwing off her balance for a moment and having her half stumble through the suddenly open entrance. She stopped short, a large curl in her eye, and stared back at red. Her plush mouth moved for words but couldn’t find any. Maybe she was losing her mind.

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Re: The Colorful Stone Kings
« Reply #22 on: February 27, 2017, 01:19:25 pm »
He’d been rash, and the reward for it was this. Not even a knock to warn whoever was inside. He started an apology. What was he thinking, rushing in like there was fire. Another conflict so soon, Carxer? But as he extended his help, hand out for hers, he finally saw who’s exit he’d disturbed. The hand froze for a moment. “ Adalaide.” He said with all the pain of realization. The bandage let him know the Gray had not given false information. “I’m sorry.” He said, and it was for the trouble he’d caused her, beginning this morning. He took her shoulders and had her stand straight. Something as valuable as a pure stone. She’d not had a chance. His uncle had poisoned oceans for the right stone.

He smiled was he swiftly put the hair back for her. At least she wasn’t worse off. She moved well. Perhaps the stones knew to be born close to the skin. “I heard.” He said and took half a step back, gesturing for the bandage. “I suppose there is no healer good enough for this one.” It was morbid small talk, but it was better than she could have expected from most in his Court. A sigh through his nose and his arms dropped. Another apology on his face. Sometimes he looked soft enough that the combination of red and black inside his lashes did not look monstrous. “I came here to see if you were alright.” Clearly you are. He didn’t know what this meant. Pretty Adalaide that he’d not really seen before today, used for fodder in games between Courts. Was it proper to run the halls for her without any other intentions? He’d not wanted more than this, his eyes on her to know she was fine. Surely his haste suggested exactly what Tempus had assumed.

“May I take you to history then?” he asked and held out his elbow to offer his arm. Hopefully that lesson would be the end of this. She’d suffered enough, whether it be his fault or some ability to make the most valuable objects in this world, so he should do her one last favor and then let her forget him. Another brat born into power that didn’t look at her more than to aggravate her superiors. It was a course of action that tasted bitter to him, but the only one he saw that could give her peace back. “I have todays manifest if you haven’t finished yours.” He revealed with a grin, as though she wouldn’t know. “I wrote it myself, too.” He boasted, and turned, arm still waiting for her.

This was enemy territory, also. It wouldn’t dampen his spirit terribly if Elleseon or Fendin happened upon them now, but being on their way out would be better than being caught staying, especially after barging in without invitation.

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Re: The Colorful Stone Kings
« Reply #23 on: February 28, 2017, 11:27:11 am »
The wave of emotions upon seeing him in the doorway might have been enough to send her reeling back if his hands hadn’t steadied her. Disappointment and shock threatened to wither the rush of shock and excitement. He knew. He’d probably always known.

He put one of her curls back into place with the mound of others and smiled and she couldn’t stop the spreading of a blush across her cheek from the smooth bridge of her nose. She ducked her head as though to hide it. She blinked in surprise when he offered his arm. She could feel the Fendin’s staff hovering just inside the door, unsure what to do.

She smiled at his crack about the manifest. Yes, she was aware he had it. “Would I have to duel for it?” Adalaide asked quietly, still with a smile. She had hers finished, of course.

From the corner of her eye she saw Fendin in the hallway, a dark shadow swelling with temper. She swallowed hard and took Carxer’s arm. It was like jumping off a bridge into a lake with no bottom. She’d just needed the presence of something more frightening than the unknown to help her make the leap.

--

Fendin stopped in the hallway when he saw the Howlingbird there. He saw red in more ways than one. His fists clenched and guantlets of dark green curled over his fists with jagged nails sticking out of the knuckles. He started forward but only made it a few steps before she was beside him, hand on his shoulder.

“Don’t ruin my plans.” Elleseon warned, forcing him to wait there in the hall while she gave the iron box over to her most trusted squire with instructions to hand it to her mother and no one else.

Fendin was forced to watch their Stigmatist take the arm of a Howlingbird and leave. “He’s going to steal her.”

Elleseon let out a short laugh. “Don’t be ridiculous. Carxer isn’t looking to start a war. He’s flirting with danger.” There was a small pang of jealousy there but she buried it under the excitement of proving herself right. She sent her squire on and then followed casually in the same direction as the healer and the war bird. Fendin shook off the magic that had curled around him and walked with her. “You can keep an eye on her as usual—in case she give another stone.” Elleseon said as they turned from the Morning Court hallway and into another, where they could again see the pair up ahead.

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Re: The Colorful Stone Kings
« Reply #24 on: February 28, 2017, 02:26:43 pm »
He raised his brow and made an impressed sound when she piqued him back about homework, and how to get it. “Not you. But I’ll oblige if you want.” He promised and enjoyed the depth in her blush. A creature like this would never have a home in the Palace Nest. Better he have his fun now, he thought. He was grateful she was coming along, and thought it was odd that she clung so tightly to him, suddenly. Nonetheless, he hurried a little bit, so she couldn’t change her mind.

“It is interesting, though, about Collaron.” He said as though he was a scholar on the largest Court there had been, when he’d only learnt what he could retain from what he’d copied off Tempus. “Did you know that there are several disciplines that are lost since then? I think it’s conspiracy, and that those disciplines are the key to whatever held Collaron together before its fall.” Anyone who’d read anything knew that was the prevailing theory, though not proven, and every time a stone was found that could be used for a new discipline, people hypothesized it was a lost discipline, rather than a found one. Carxer was proud over his deliberation, though. The Howlingbird Court only visited the pages of history that spoke to their glory, and they had not even existed as a fraction of Collaron.

The history hall was grand, as was any place of learning here. He made sure she was seated before he was. It was strange to be so formal, so he relaxed into the back of his own chair as the teacher and his watered down ember stone spoke with a voice that should be too low to reach all of them. Effective magic for a leader to have. Almost all blood related to Carxer wore one in their armor to direct their soldiers better.

“I saw your show this morning.” Said Callod, black veins snaking over his white leather armor, here and there holding amethyst berries. The veins twisted as he turned around. Callod was beautiful and vain. They had a small kingdom, but did war rather well, with their poisons. A fine magic, made a lot from technique and not from raw power.  Silver collarbones on his armor met in a green stone to nurture the show of the black veins. He had small green berries on his black eyebrows, and it was luxuriant. With their hormonal magics and innate pretty traits, The Salec Court sometimes dabbled as high courtesans, which didn’t stem far from their assassin trade. He looked at the two of them from his seat in front. “Seems you are an item now. Does this mean you’ll fold into Morning?” he asked. It was strangely blunt for Salec. “Will you have his babies and wait for him while he goes off slaying and raping?” a clear voice, because Callod was practiced. It was all directed toward Adalaide. Seemed the coldhearted beauty of Salec Court was in a mood today.

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Re: The Colorful Stone Kings
« Reply #25 on: March 01, 2017, 12:03:02 pm »
Tempus had already been seated when Carxer walked in with the healer on his arm. He almost cringed if only because it couldn’t possibly go well. He had played coy enough but Tempus had not been fooled when he dashed off to class. Carxer wasn’t exactly one to be early. But to his surprise, when Fendin, Elleseon, and a handful more Morning Court arrived, no one made a fuss about it. No one but Callod that is.

“Don’t be silly.” Elleseon was first to reply, passing both tables on her way to one behind Adalaide and Carxer. “Howlingbird would never fold into Morning Court.” A smile tugged her lips. “They’d have to be crushed and drug in like any good war court.” Her tone was playful but something glinted in her eye with the whisper of daydreams.

Adalaide flushed, wishing she could sink into her seat and escape. Why did Callod have to ruin things?

One of Fendin’s staff hurried by, the one that took his notes, and put her own books and papers on her desk. She had completely forgotten them at her last class. Embarrassment might have flooded her cheeks if there had been room for more.

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Re: The Colorful Stone Kings
« Reply #26 on: March 02, 2017, 09:19:28 am »
Carxer winked at Tempus to let him know he was quite aware this course of action was faulty. But they were here to learn, weren’t they? While Carxer had the appropriate amount of rebellion and mind for mischief, he wouldn’t usually endanger his own court, even for petty trifles – which meant a fair amount of bodies laid in the ground from their infantry by Howlingbird standards, anyway – so having this little inclination toward Adalaide was new to him. Being here, with her, it seemed he had embraced it. He turned to look back at Elleseon and gave her a smile, a welcoming one.

“There are birds that can blot out the morning sun, though.” He pointed out. By any measure, Carxer was the better out himself and his bloodthirsty cousin to banter with. “But I wouldn’t mind visiting the Morning castle.” He offered. “What are you visiting hours? Dawn till breakfast? A little light wake up and then sleep until daylight again?” he was amused and delighted in the his color on Adalaide’s cheek. He followed her face downward, and would eventually come upon the bandages again. Suddenly his coal sclera were more prominent than his sunset, nova irises. He did not voice his displeasure, though.

“Hey.” Callod said, drumming fingers on Adalaide’s book to have her attention from in front of her. He tugged his chin in Carxer’s direction, whom was also looking now. “You like this guy?” he asked, and the thorns close to the central green stone grew little, triangular thorns, edges gleaming. “You think he’s good?” he pressed, sarcasm on his tongue and some darkness in his throat. “You think he’s going to be good to you?”

Carxer’s sclera hummed. He knew that tone. It had preceded threats at kingly gatherings before. His hand slid to Adalaide’s where she held them in her lap. Elleseon would see from where she sat.

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Re: The Colorful Stone Kings
« Reply #27 on: March 02, 2017, 11:59:31 am »
Fendin rumbled behind Elleseon but he held his tongue. He held it because she’d promised to cut it out if he got in the way of her experiment. Not an easy request though, when he had been charged with keeping watch over their families Stigmatist. Callod had that tone. That special tone. And Elleseon pretended expertly to not notice or care, flipping through her book instead.

Adalaide held her breath. Good? Were any of them good? If any of them were, couldn’t Carxer be? She exhaled a little breath when his fingers touched hers. She turned her hand to have her palm run along his. Her heart beating a little faster. She’d never thought about it in those terms—in Callod’s terms. Her heart became a drum for Carxer and she’d made a stone in the color of his eyes. “I like him,” she whispered, barely audible at all, and then looked up through her lashes at Callod. “Why does it upset you?”

Elleseon pressed back a smile, mixed with triumph and bitterness. Over the edge of her book and the lip of her desk, she watched their hands under the table. A secret little part of her heart hoped her experiment would be a failure, hoped to disappoint her mother for the first time ever, because then she could tear Adalaide away from Carxer and shove her in her corner again where she belonged. Morning hearts were dark. A secret she tried so hard to keep.

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Re: The Colorful Stone Kings
« Reply #28 on: March 02, 2017, 03:41:20 pm »
Carxer’s hand held hers tightly, but the risen sinew around the bone of his backhand suggest he was putting even more strength into the grip. He was going to pounce if Callod did something. So unpredictable, the finer magics. The Salec Court did well as assassins. Father had spoken of their skill on a few occasions. Father always wanted more disciplines under Howlingbird.

Callod dropped his head to the side, as though the pairing was sweet to him. His eyes were as poisonous as before. “Yes, why wouldn’t you?” he said after having forced her confession. Carxer did not seem to enjoy the compliment, fixed as he was. Always anticipating force. “Do I look upset?” he asked her. With his spear eyebrows and burning lips. “This is my happiness. I only wish to offer you my services as a matrimonial priest.” Pearly teeth were wet with his voice. Carxer pushed her hand deeper into her lap, having no time to rejoice in how she’d accepted it.

Callod reached out, standing, both arms. His unmarred palms sought their faces, and the veins on his armor grew fast, baring pods. His eyes were bladed in his anger, unexplained. “Will you still like him when he rapes you and makes you do his Court’s bidding?” he roared as the pods broke and a shadows mist fanned out to carry death toward them. “I’ll marry you two in the same mausoleum!” He snarled. But Carxer had already encased them in a dome of red. Callod beat his hands against the barrier and the smoke dissipated. “You damned simpletons!” Callod yelled through the glass. “Salec is for the world, we’re for tipping the scales. A Court of assassins can’t be soldiers.”

Carxer leaned in to her but kept his eyes at the livid murderer. “I assume Howlingbird has brought Salec in.” The Academia guards pulled the disturbance away. No politics, at least not loud ones, during class. The red shield faded and he held her hand a little looser. “I was not told.” He explained to her. Callod heard too and spat on the floor. It was theatrical and pretty. “But if your family saw it fit to obey my Court then so should you. Good to see you have spirit.” His voice was cold. “If this is the extent of your abilities, then perhaps my family simply took you in to protect you.” Callod almost got free from the guards, then. “If you’d like to remain in your Court, now mine, then bring me back a glass of water before the class is over.” He was a poisoner, he should understand.

“You’re a glory glutton just like your court, empty and without cause!” Callod continued, hair undone. “And you,” he looked at Adalaide. “you’re as good as dead with him. He’s a mistake.” Finally the guards got him out the door.

Carxer rested his elbow on the table and stared at the teacher. After some strange silence the teacher continued with the class. Carxer hadn’t let go of her hand.

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Re: The Colorful Stone Kings
« Reply #29 on: March 02, 2017, 11:47:08 pm »
Elleseon sat as still as possible, convincing herself to observe and to leave her most valuable possession unprotected. But Adalaide wasn’t unprotected, was she? If anyone had been looking at Elleseon, they might have seen the purple of her irises sharpen and churn electric before that red shield went up.

She’d heard the rumors of the Salec court that morning but hadn’t believed them. What Court would be fool enough to force their will on assassins? Howlingbirds. It was almost too good to believe. And yet it dampened her own plans. She saw the way Adalaide’s shoulders tensed, the way her back froze and her hand went still in his grasp as Carxer spoke like his station—like a prince of a decimating nation. Adalaide had never forgotten the death of her own Court, though little. It had been her fault after all.

Deciding to deal with one issue at a time, Elleseon made a disappointed sound, disrupting class again. “You forgot my manifest.” She accused her scribe mildly. Before the woman could even shuffle through the papers to produce it, Elleseon was on her feet. “I’ll get it. Carry on.” She rolled a wrist at the teacher and walked out of the classroom.

It was easy to follow Callod’s anger to the room they’d taken him to. Guards depositing him in a chair just as she walked in. “Miss, you can’t—“

“Get out.” Elleseon cut them off cold. Her eyes were electric purple now and when one made to protest she tipped her head and dark horns grew from her temples to curl backward. She stared and he flinched, both guards ducking out of the room. She looked at Callod then, when they were alone. They’d never been alone before.

“The Morning Court has long since enjoyed the companionship and craftsmanship of the Salec Court. I cannot imagine it tamed.” She spoke first. She had followed, after all. “The Howlingbirds are fools to think they can do it. Salecs have always belonged free. Even the Morning Court understood that.”

Elleseon took a step deeper into the room, looking casually at its modest furniture. Nothing too valuable as they expected tantrums to be thrown here. “Mother’s always spoke fondly of your court. It made an impression, you see, because she said that there were few courts that would be made true enemies through forced alliance. She likened your kind to great cats. Cats can never truly be tamed. You might be forced to play the part, put into cages or collared, but sooner or later—when it suited the great big cat—it would see it’s owned dead just to prove it had never been owned at all.”

She came to stand nearby. Just out of arms reach. She wasn’t here to threaten. Quite the opposite. “It would be a terrible loss, if I never enjoyed that friendship of the Salec Court in my reign.”

-

Adalaide felt cold. For perhaps the first time since he looked at her that morning, she wasn’t blushing. It had been hard to imagine Carxer as a Howlingbird truly. It had been hard to imagine him crushing courts and spirits. She looked down at her hand in his and for the first time, wondered why he took it. Why had he walked her to class? Why had he been nice to her at the duel? The Morning Court had snuffed out an entire court for her. What would the Howlingbirds be willing to do?

She took her hand from his and it hurt her heart more than she could have imagined. The breath actually pulled from her lungs like she’d left some piece of herself behind, entwined with his fingers. She stared hard at her papers and books and pretended to listen.