With a Little Help From My Friends

A covenant at the Caldera Manor

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A city floating in the center of a lake, Ravok is a place of dark beauty, romance and culture. Behind it all though is the presence of Rhysol, God of Evil and Betrayal. The city is controlled by The Black Sun, a religious organization devoted to Rhysol. [Lore]

With a Little Help From My Friends

Postby Shiress on January 16th, 2019, 1:37 am

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9Th Day
Winter 518


In the horizon, the brilliance of Syna's orb had begun to break through the veil of darkness, bringing another day to the city of chaos. Deep within Ravok, inside the Caldera Manor, Shiress still slept, her arms gently embracing a lithe form, their legs entwined, her head resting against the other female's chest. Long chestnut locks fanned out over the pillow behind her and cascaded across the Tigress's bare chest. Zavya's hand rested in the soft curve where hip met waist on Shiress's side, her face tilted away, lush lips slightly parted in deep slumbering breaths. Beside the Tigress on a bedside table lay a golden collar, broken asunder, a relic of a changed life. For better or worse, time would tell.

The last four days had been one of adventurous exploration for the two females. Days spent sequestered behind the bedroom door, laughing, talking, and sometimes crying, as the two friends discovered one another, learning each other in a way that Shiress had never known another female. She cherished the time spent with her new companion, but also regretted that it wouldn't, couldn't, last. Zavya was in hiding, and her being at the Caldera Manor was no longer safe for her.

The Kelvic's master had discovered the map that Shiress had given Zavya and two nights ago had sent a guard to retrieve his escaped slave. Shiress had not witnessed the event but was told the man had become quite insistent that Zavya is brought to him, so much so that the man was hauled bodily from the premises with the insistence that no Kelvic slave was present at the manor. That night, however, a now desperate Shiress had written a message to the only other person besides Elias that she new might could help Zavya. Belugnir. It was a simple missive, calling the sellsword on his vow to come and protect Shiress after she had gotten into a bit of trouble. She would explain the truth of the situation when he arrived; she just needed him to come, first.

The next morning, Alaric had arranged for Shiress to meet with Zeb, the one person Shiress new she could fully trust with details surrounding what had happened to her and her companion. She needed guards to keep out prying Ryker thugs until Elias came home and she could explain, in selected detail, She had decided, what had transpired between Zavya and her Master. Shiress would keep herself out of the details as much as possible.

Within a few bells, the Caldera Manor was well guarded, with one guard set outside the room the two companions were occupying. The site of the overgrown man gave Shiress pause and more reason to stay in her room. These 'guards' weren't Ebonstryfe, she could tell that with a glance, and could only hope that they wouldn't steal everything they could get their hands on. If they did, she would conveniently blame Zeb.

Against Zavya, Shiress began to stir as an odd mixer of emotion trickling into her dreams.

Excitement.

Eagerness.

Satisfaction.

Expectation.

Shiress's eyes slid open with an odd pounding in her chest. Frowning, she tried to remember the dream that had caused such emotion to rise within her, but couldn't. Her frown deepened, something...was wrong. She felt strange. She shifted slightly, hand going to her chest to touch her racing heart, only to feel a steady rhythmic beat. She blew out a breath, trying to dispel the butterflies in her belly. Then, it came to her. Rook! She was feeling Rook! Closing her eyes, she focused on the bond she shared with the wolf. Shiress's green eyes shot open going wide; Rook was close, very, close and if he was here, so was...Elias!

Oh no! No, no, no!


He's early! Two days early!

In full-on panic, Shiress slid out from Zavya's soft embrace as fast and gently as she could as not to rouse the slumbering beauty and ran to the door but paused. She was naked! In a flurry of tangling tresses, Shiress donned a pair of pants, Zavya's she thought, but didn't care, and pulled a blouse around her shoulders, horribly miss latching several buttons in her haste to dress. She swallowed and took a calming breath, before running out the door. The guard surveyed her with a sideways glance but didn't say anything and thankfully stayed put. Halfway down the corridor, Alaric appeared in her path. How did the man constantly look...did he ever sleep?

"Elias?" she asked

"Just arrived." he replied. Seeing her breathless concern, he added "In the dining room, where breakfast has been laid out. Should I send for Ms. Zavya?"

"No!" Shiress all but shouted. She sighed, clearing her throat. "No, let her sleep, I'll get her soon."

Shiress turned to leave but paused as Alaric spoke again "Also a Mr. Belugnir has just arrived. He states you sent for him?"

Shiress groaned, scraping a hand through her hair. Of all the petching times! She glanced at the butler, a look of worry creasing her brow. "Can you put him somewhere with a lot of alcohol and food until I have had a chance to see Elias?" The butler gave such a subtle bow that Shiress wasn't even sure it was one. He turned and started off in the opposite direction. Shiress would ask Elias to give that man a raise.

Long hair cascaded across a shoulder as Shiress came to an abrupt stop in the doorway to the dining hall, a broad smile breaking out across her face as her eyes alighted on Rook. In an instant, Shiress had crossed the room and was in her bondmate's arms. "Welcome home!" she whispered, then drew back, planting a soft kiss on the corner of Rook's mouth, then wrapped him in her arms again, elated. Off to the side, she watched her Soldier come through the door, armor-clad, tall, and handsome. Shiress's released Rook and stepped toward Elias, her knees threatening to give way as a rush of gratitude for the Soldier filled her very soul.

How could so many days of insecurity and fear dissolve at the sight of just one man? Without remembering closing the distance, Shiress was before Elias, hands grabbing him to pull his mouth to hers. Several ticks had gone by before she pulled her lips from his, but her hands lifted to his cheeks, holding him in place.

"Elias," she breathed against his lips, "I'm so glad you're home."


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With a Little Help From My Friends

Postby Zavya on January 16th, 2019, 7:44 am

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Cries of ecstasy filled an otherwise silent room, breathless sighs punctuating the soft hiss of skin against skin. Zavya was drowning, drowning forever in the all-encompassing scent of vanilla and roses, and she prayed it would never end. Shudders and groans replaced screams and pleas, and the Kelvic reveled in every touch, every sound. The night seemed eternal now, and where once that might have been cause for dread, now it was cause for elation. Zavya lived for the thrill, the anticipation, that sense of untouchable invincibility. With her, she was unconquerable. With her, she was free.

The sound of a door slowly creaking open jerked Zavya from Shiress’s body, a backlit gaze probing into the velvet darkness. A tall figure barely outlined by the light from the hall stood in the softly illuminated doorway, a figure that seemed somehow familiar… As the door opened wider, his face came further into view, revealing steel blues that made the tiger’s blood freeze in her veins. Two footsteps and the sound of leather snapping had Zavya bolting upright out of the bed…


…and into wakefulness, bedclothes scattering to the floor as Zavya sat up with a gasp. Her chest heaved as she fought to catch her breath, gaze flicking to every corner of the room as if seeking the truth in her nightmare. “It was just a dream,” she reminded herself in a rough mumble, even if the hands that rubbed the sleep from her eyes trembled with the lingering panic of her slumbering vision. “Just a dream…”

Most of her dreams had followed a similar story since the passion-fueled night she and Shiress had fled the Valdinox Estate to Caldera Manor. The days she’d spent in the opulent house had been undoubtedly the happiest of her short life, but the nights… Had it not been for Shiress’s soothing presence at her side, terror would have ensured she slept not a wink. As it was, she could hardly bear to close her eyes for fear of seeing her master’s face again. The nerve-wracking visit from his guard had only served to make things worse. Their little bubble of joy was about to be popped, and she knew it. She only wished she could do something to prevent it.

A frown furrowed Zavya’s brow as she tore her mind away from the dream and looked around the room, unhappily finding herself alone. Where was Shiress? The bed next to her was still warm where the woman had slept, so she couldn’t have been gone very long. Had she left to get something to eat? Why hadn’t she woken her?

The Kelvic slowly stretched her arms above her head, sharp-toothed jaws parting in a very feline yawn. Her feet were silent as they touched the floor, rising from the bed to grab a cloak haphazardly slung over the back of a nearby chair. Golden eyes half-lidded and sleepy, she threw the garment around her shoulders and lazily dragged her fingers through her messy dark locks. Throwing a glance at herself in the mirror, she shrugged. She would do.

Pushing through the door, Zavya whispered down the hall—bare feet soundless against the hard wood floor. It was only a matter of ticks before she was descending the stairs, but she paused once she reached the landing. Voices. Why so many voices? And so early? The guards that had bolstered the house’s normal security rarely said much, and when they did, it was brief.

Zavya followed first the sweet tones of Shiress, keeping to the walls so that she might see or hear whoever she spoke to before they noticed her. However, she caught just enough of the conversation to have her quickly turning around and walking in the other direction. The name “Elias” drifted toward the tiger’s ears, eyes widening as she spun on her heel. It would seem the master of the manor was home, and here she was, skulking about his house in a borrowed cloak and giddy with thoughts of bedding his lover. Perhaps that particular meeting could wait just a bit longer…

Her frown from earlier returned and deepened as she turned off toward the other side of the stairs, following instead the familiar voice of the butler. The mutter that answered his was gruff and also somewhat familiar, though she couldn’t quite place it. The tigress moved in closer until she got a clear view of Alaric… and was that-

“Einar?!” she asked in surprise, his scarred face one she’d be able to pick out anywhere. Not that she was looking much better these days, ragged red lines marring both cheeks and slashing up toward her eye. “What are you… why are you… what the hell are you doing here?”

Head spinning, she took a step back, looked between the mercenary and Alaric, and contemplated whether she should just head back upstairs or bolt out the door. Having expected another quiet morning curled up with the chestnut-haired beauty, what she’d found instead made her wish she could just start the day over completely. Her previous meetings with Elias and Einar both hadn’t exactly been… pleasant.

Rhysol petch me and be done with it, she thought to herself with a groan. Should have known my luck couldn’t hold out forever.
Last edited by Zavya on January 19th, 2019, 11:09 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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With a Little Help From My Friends

Postby Elias Caldera on January 18th, 2019, 2:29 pm

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“I can tell.” Elias murmured softly between bated breaths.

He was not ashamed to admit she’d stolen the wind from him with her unexpected fervor, but more than that, with her kiss Shiress had taken away everything else. After four long days of hard travel, to walk through those doors and have her honeyed lips upon his be the first thing he knew… it was as if all at once she’d banished his woes, his worries, his aches, his pains and every care or concern that once weighed heavy on his shoulder, and all in a single, rapturous embrace that ignited a flame in his chest that he realized had been burning since the day he left her on the docks. What made it all the more unbearable was when he looked into her emerald eyes and saw that same flame burning just as bright in her.

Elias sighed, leaning his forehead against her’s as she held him, unwilling and unable to break their hold for selfish want of more. In that instant the soldier knew he could close his eyes and let himself slip away then, to lose himself entirely in her and her alone and allow the world outside to fall away behind them both, forgotten and immaterial.

He grinned, another kiss threatening to overwhelm the unlikely pair as they teetered on the brink of this breathless moment they shared, but the two were far from alone, and so the young Zeltivan could consider herself lucky for the time being. Had he had his way, she’d be in his arms by now, hoisted and twirled from one end of the manor to the other, laughing and dancing all the way. Such was the jubilant madness she instilled in him these days, and such was the madness he all too willingly embraced. Later, he thought, taking her hands in his and peeling himself free of her heavenly touch with no small measure of reluctance.

“One ill-humored wolf boy with a penchant for trouble, as requested.” The stryfer casually declared, turning their attentions unto the one in question. With a smile, Elias gestured at Rook to come join them, arm held out until at last the Kelvic conceded and found it wrapping itself around his shoulder as the mage gathered the three of them close together. For a moment, they stood like this, the soldier, the healer, the wolf, all bound by something more than just what held them together or in the past tried to keep them apart. The swordsman exhaled deeply, nodding as his gaze passed from one to the other. An air of meaning and importance had come over him, and as he spoke, it carried in his simple words, “United now and forever. Let nothing come between this bond shared again.”

The pale swordsman smiled, planted a passionate kiss on his lover’s forehead and playfully tussling the red head’s mess of hair before abruptly breaking his hold. “This is it pup, you are where you belong now. You are home.”

It wasn’t the first time he’d made such bold declarations. Their trip together had given the two ample time to discuss matters, and Elias had made clear all he had expected of the wolf now that he belonged to the Caldera, and all that such a thing demanded of them both. In turn, so too had Rook done the same of him, making evident in no uncertain terms what he wanted. In the end the duo had come out of this with perhaps a better understanding of each other and little need for anything to be repeated, but still, Elias could remember the time when his family in Zeltiva had opened their doors to him and Raina when they needed it the most. ‘Welcome home’ just never got old, no matter how many times you were reminded.

Now that that was done however, it seemed appropriate to move on to more pressing concerns.

“Oh, Shiress, there was a rather surly gentleman standing outside my door who was quite insistent on knowing who I was and what my business here would be. You wouldn’t happen to know anything about that, would you?” The stryfer called offhandedly as he walked into the adjoining room and noticed another yet familiar face standing guard in his estate. He’d counted three already, and that was just those stationed inside. He motioned for the man to attend him, recognizing him immediately as one of the Bastards. “Boss.” The young tough greeted with a curt yet, for his kind, courteous nod. His tattooed hands held fast to the hems of his fine jacket, and Elias could see by the telltale bulge in the lining it was likely as filled with as many weapons as his waist coat was. “What’s your business here?” The stryfer inquired curiously. The thug sniffed and snubbed his nose. “Boss lady says we outa watch the place for a few days, on account of some fool making trouble a little while back, so we watch the place. Boss Barsavi says it won’t even cost yah nothing with you and him being such good friends and all.” The man flashed a grin of gold teeth, but Elias did not share in his humor.

“Well you tell my good friend Barsavi that I’m back in the city and we need to meet. Soon. Tell him… its time. Now, gather your boys up and get the hell out of my house.”

The gangster bowed his head ever so slightly, all the while doing a poor job of hiding his knowing smile. Excitement rolled off the punk like a wave of rancid odor, one that was sure to infect the others once he passed on his message, but, to their credit, before long all the guards had fallen in behind him and departed the mansion in due order. Elias would bother himself with tallying all they had likely stolen from his home later. Right now, he had much more important business to see done.

As he rounded the corner once more and stepped back into the foyer, his gaze honed in and locked itself on to Shiress’s once he found her again. Something dire and stern seemed to come across Elias blue glower as he bid all mirth from his countenance and leveled an all but accusing glare at the woman. One that left little room for banter or bargaining. “Before you begin to explain, tell me…

Where is she?”
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With a Little Help From My Friends

Postby Rook on January 19th, 2019, 5:52 pm

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Rook's liberation from Jessica Lazarin struck him with all the force of a whisper. It was an odd thing to finally be free yoke he had suffered all his life, and to feel not any different today than he had the day before. The kelvic knew he ought to feel different. His knew that his world had tilted significantly for the better, and he could now look around him with fresh new eyes unblinded by the tyranny which had dogged his steps for the entirety of his life. Cages, slavery, oppression. They had always been a constant in his life. Suffering was only a step away. And now, the world would be something completely different. Perhaps that was the crux of it, the suddenness of the change. Rook's circumstances may have changed, but he was still the same wolf he was yesterday. So he allowed himself to embrace the change slowly, to drink in the differences so as not to be overwhelmed by them. And, cautiously, with all the reticence of a child exploring their world for the first time, Rook began to test his boundaries.

The collar which had strangled him for close to a year now had been thrown away, and the canine side of him which Rook had been forced to lock away all these seasons was now at his full disposal. He took to it like a fish to water, that second half of himself, and a great many hours were spent with fangs, paws, and fur. The wolf could keep pace with Elias’ horse all the more easy that way, but that was tepid excuse for the starving desire to feel the earth beneath his bare feet and the smell of the wildlands in his throat.

Rook spent more time exploring in small circles of the wild around Elias as he did trotting beside him. There were far too many scents to investigate and things to see. Often he would vanish for an hour or longer, just out of sight of the road, before coming loping back to his new master's side. Once, he returned from one of his trips away with a bundle of hops and a playful and knowing look shining in his amber eyes. Long nights spent in quiet conversation about matters of importance were often gifted with a smattering of fresh meat in the pot which Rook had scrounged; squirrel, or hare, or bird. The world was quiet, calm, and safe. And, maybe for the first time in Rook's nearly four years of life, he felt a tension that he had always thought was a part of him begin to gently untwist it's way from around his heart.

Rook did not ask about what they had seen in the scrying orb. Something in him felt that he ought to not speak of it. As if doing so would pop that bubble of peace growing around the pair, and Rook would not have that ended for all the world.

In that final stint on the road to Ravok, having risen at dawn so as to make it to Elias’ home before midday, Rook was gone for nearly two hours. When he finally emerged from a cluster of nettles he was covered in scratches, but a fat rabbit hung from his grinning jaws. The wolf boy took to his human form and hung the rabbit by its feet from Elias’ less-than-amused horse's saddle. “It's for Shiress,” was Rook's only explanation. As the trip brought the pair closer to the maiden of Rook's heart, an excitement and eagerness had begun to fill him. Soon he would be looking on his bondmate with fresh new eyes, untainted by the oppression he had known all his years. By the time they made it to the Caldera's mansion, Rook heart sang a song of love whose melody could only be completed with his bondmate's answering harmony. But when he felt Shiress’ sleepy acknowledgement of his approach, he didn't feel the joy he had expected. He felt panic.

The joy was there eventually, when Shiress’ eyes alighted on the kelvic boy, and Shiress’ embrace was answered with a fierce hug of his own. Rook grinned at his bondmate impishly and pointed to his bare neck. It was covered in calluses still from a year's worth of uncomfortable friction, but the ugly collar. “No collar!” he told her eagerly. “And I brought you something!” The wolf pointed to the breakfast table where he had tossed the rabbit that he had caught earlier. A pool of blood had gathered around it, and the butler was staring at it with a thin-lipped look of disapproval. “We can cook it for breakfast!” Rook said. “Or lunch!”

Shiress left Rook's embrace briefly to go to Elias. As she did so, Rook took a moment to glance around the room, nostrils flaring for a flash. There were a cluster of scents that weren't much different than the Lazarin home had been. Servants going about their chores, food cooking, cleaners to make the place shine. But there was also the distinct smell of cat. Not the soft, nonthreatening scent of felines tasked with removing mice from the premises, but the thick, heavy, dangerous scent of a large predator. Rook felt his invisible hackles raise. He didn't growl, but he wanted to. What was a kelvic doing here?

When Elias called Rook over, the wolf was pulled from his distraction into an embrace. He looked at Elias and Shiress with a touch of wonder. He could feel something rising in his chest, but didn't know how to place it. He merely nodded, and twined his arm with Shiress’ and leaned into her. Rook's happiness was distracted once more, and he breathed shallowly while Elias spoke to one of his people. “Shiress, why do you smell like cat?” Rook asked softly, brown eyes enquiring. A moment later, Elias asked his bold question. Yes, where was she indeed?
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With a Little Help From My Friends

Postby Shiress on January 19th, 2019, 7:03 pm

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Shiress reached out and grabbed Rook's hand as Elias's pulled them together. The Soldier's gesture warmed the girl almost as much as it surprised her. At times Elias seemed hard as steel on the outside, unable to bend or break at the best of times, but then there were times like this when genuine kindness and graciousness seeped through his hardened exterior. Elias had opened up his home for Shiress out of love, but he had done the same for Rook without such feelings. Because Shiress desired her Bondmate to be with her was the only motivation that the swordsman needed to place his life in harms way to to bring him to her. The thought had her clinging to the man a little firmer as he planted a kiss on her forehead.

Shiress beamed at Rook as Elias left them and dragged the poor wolf into another smothering hug. "Thank you for my prize" she said, glancing toward the still irritated Butler with a grin, "We'll cook it together and you can give me one of its feet for luck and I'll wear it always." She pulled back smiling at her Bondmate, but when he spoke the smile slipped a bit.

Shiress should have seen this coming from halfway across Lake Ravok, but in the state of mind she was currently in, she hadn't. despite her dislike of lies and those that tell them, she would be loath to admit that the first thing she thought of was, in fact, a lie, a small one though it may be. Shiress opened her mouth to tell Rook that she had found a stray, but a double take catching the look on her lover's face as he walked back into the room killed the lie on her tongue right along with her ability to speak. His words, however, made the girl go pale, reviling even Elias's ghostly complexion.

Shyke.

Did the guard he was speaking to tell him? Did the guard even know? Was it Alaric? Realizing her mouth was hanging open, Shiress snapped it closed, moistened her lips, and attempted to speak "I..." and failed miserably, the word coming out of a dry mouth in less than a whisper. Clearing her throat, Shiress glanced to Rook hopefully, but saw the same look in the Kelvic's face as Elias's, albeit with a bit less....hostility? Shiress straightened slightly "She's in our bedroom asleep?" she said, sounding for all like a five-year-old admitting to her father where she had stashed her stolen cookies.

"Caldera, you looking for me?"

Shiress froze, turning very slowly to the dining room entrance to see Isabella standing there, her hands folded in front of her, eyes flicking from Elias to Shiress, then back to Elias. In the same agonizing slowness, Shiress turned back to Elias, the look on the man's face all but screaming that she had just petched up in a major way.

Taking two steps back, Shiress sat down hard.

Thankfully, there was a chair beneath her.



Moonlight drowns out all but the brightest stars

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With a Little Help From My Friends

Postby Belugnir on January 19th, 2019, 9:50 pm

''Look, old man, I didn't come here for your brandies and breads, if missus has the nerve to send for a man while the petching roosters are still asleep, she ought to at least have the decency to come and tell me what the trouble is without sittin' me down in some corner for a bell beforehand. Can you at least tell me what I ought to do so I can be off?''

To their credit, whoever this servant was, they were amply patient, somehow maintaining a warm tone and welcoming stature.

''I understand, sir, but I know nothing. I assure you the lady will be with you in a moment. Pray, have a moment of patience and come this way--''

It was a rare occasion, for Einar not to be donned in clothing reminiscent of a nightmarish carcass, and to not have the odor of ash and stale sweat follow by his side. Ever since the night of reckoning weeks ago, his purse has been weighty, and even though he still stayed at a questionable tavern during his time in the city, sleep was plentiful, baths were had a many, and food ceased to consist mostly of yesterday's bread and whatever else could be spared from the pantry for a copper. He had even found himself indulging in and investing an ounce into more tasteful clothing. And so it was he stood in the entry hallway of the Caldera Manor clad in a long tunic in the faded shade of red wine, embroidered with a modest decorative pattern sewn around the collar, the cuffs and the hem... and with it all went an embellished albeit hardly extravagant belt, tightening the thing at his waist. There was even a faint fragrance of citrus and skinned apples lingering about the man...

But Einar was still Einar, thin of patience when it came to the elaborate nonsense with which the truly rich and important concerned themselves, still bearing the face of a man who'd met his death in the midst of frightful fury, still wearing a studded doublet beneath his fine clothes, and still with a crude, curved dagger stuck and sheathed within his new belt.

Though when he heard the holler of his own name, the mercenary's heels came closer together, his back straightened, head perking up an ounce and his forearms coming together... almost subtly, at the back of his waist. Would have done his old men proud had they been alive to see him. Ein's stand at attention was brief, however, head tilting in the company of rapidly blinking uncertainty and surprise. He'd seen this woman before... It was the mere fact that she simply didn't belong to the scenery behind her which caused him to take longer than a breath before recalling those gold-amber eyes and the feline mannerism that accompanied her voice.

''...I could ask the same of you... Zavya?'', he'd lightly sneer after a lengthy moment of sizing the girl up at the realization of her barefoot predicament. ''I'm not the one skulking about someone else's place naked as a babe and clad in a cloak about five sizes past mine.''

His memory of the night they met was slightly hazy, especially toward the end, but he was rather certain this woman had nothing to do with Elias, certainly wasn't his slave... And then Ein's face began to grow thin-lipped and a frown made itself cozy upon his brow as he began to fathom the purpose of his invitation to the manor. An exasperated sigh gathered together in his bosom.

This will be a peachy long day, won't it?
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With a Little Help From My Friends

Postby Zavya on January 20th, 2019, 12:34 am

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“I’m not naked,” Zavya countered, at a loss for anything better to say. With the way her morning was going, it was a wonder she could fathom a retort at all. “You said it yourself. I’ve got the cloak.”

It was all she could not to childishly roll her eyes and poke out her tongue, reining herself in with a heavy sigh. Pulling herself up to her full height, the tigress raised her chin and caught Einar’s good eye within her molten gaze. “And I was invited, I’ll have you know,” she added, her tone haughty, even if that wasn’t exactly true. She’d been invited, yes, but it was out of necessity and under rather dire circumstances. And she had no doubt the house’s master likely would not be overly fond of the duration of her stay, much less the activities she’d participated in during her… down time.

In spite of her attempts at sarcasm, it was obvious the Kelvic was uneasy. The way her gaze darted everywhere at once, the tightness around her lips, the straightness of her posture… it was clear Zavya would rather be anywhere than where she was standing at that moment. Seeing the scarred figure across from her had helped to stir that unease, but it wasn’t where it was borne from. She felt she could almost hear the deep voice of the Styfer coming closer, and her eyes kept cutting toward the direction of the door. Surely, if she darted fast enough…

Before she could make a decision either way, Zavya looked back at Einar with a narrowed gaze. “Really, though, why are you here?” she asked suspiciously, eyeing the much finer garb he’d donned for the day. “You don’t seem the type to spend time in places like… well, places like this.”

Just as she asked the question, the tigress thought back to two nights prior when Ryker’s guard had come snooping about the manor. Shiress had said she would send for help so that Zavya might be able to get out of the city safely. She couldn’t imagine the woman would have sent for Elias to help her, so who did that leave but…

“No,” she said flatly, shaking her head with a bitter laugh. “Oh, no.”

Einar seemed to catch on to at least the gist of what was happening just as she did, and he looked no more pleased at the prospect than the Kelvic. “This has to be a joke,” Zavya went on with a disbelieving snort. “She can’t have meant you…”

Zavya threw her hands up in exasperation and turned the other way, heading back for the foyer. “I think I’ll take my chances,” she threw over her shoulder as she rounded the stairs.

Though, did she really think that was an option? One slave girl, out on the run alone? No matter her bestial form, she couldn’t hope to last long in the wilds on her own. But at that moment, facing the impending confrontation with her lover’s lover and the thought of that scarred arsehole escorting her out of the city, Zavya was nearly mad enough to try it.

Can’t ever keep myself out of petching trouble, she thought to herself with a quiet snarl as she snuck around the banister, the door held firmly in her sight. Even if I can’t get out of the city, surely I can find somewhere else to hide until I figure things out. Taking a deep breath and holding it, the Kelvic slipped out into the open, hoping and vaguely praying that she could make it past the threshold before anyone noticed where she’d gone.

Zavya knew hope was always in vain.
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With a Little Help From My Friends

Postby Elias Caldera on January 30th, 2019, 5:29 pm

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Elias raised an inquisitive brow at the healer’s peculiar response, a brow that only ascended further when Isabella herself came waltzing around the corner a moment later. “There you are, finally.” Elias grumbled as the stubborn slave girl heedlessly approached, “and its ‘master’, ‘mas-ter’” he amended frustratingly.

“Oh, you don’t have to call me anything so formal as that, Caldera. Isabella is fine, or madam Crowley if you must. Now, I assume you’re growling because you’d like some help getting out of that armor, I take it.” She retorted with a mildly bemused grimace as she studied the soldier’s metallic ware like one would a math problem.

Elias shot Shiress an exasperated look as the handmaiden set to work on the not so delicate task of unstrapping buckles and yanking on harnesses, as if to say ‘this is your fault she’s like this.’ The least the little brat could do was pretend to show a modicum of subservience and respect when they had guests over. If she wasn’t Shiress’s pet, there was no doubt in any of their minds that it would have been a tossup between the mage or the hardnosed Alaric to see who would have had the unruly wench over their knee first. The girl was in dire need straightening out and a severe humbling, but such concerns were for another time, Elias reminded himself. There were more pressing matters at hand for the moment, most imperative of which was the urgent escape from the set of armor he’d been traveling in for nearly a week now. Elias was fairly certain at some point on the road something had crawled into his cuirass and promptly died there, for there were scant other explanations that could possibly justify the horrendous odor he had been emitting lately. In fact, such was its rancorous stench that after a while, not even the insects of the wilds had been brave enough to approach anymore. Hence how grateful he had been indeed when Shiress had wrapped herself around him so lovingly despite it all. He needed a bath, he needed a bed, and he needed his woman in his arms for the duration of both, but first, a hot meal to fill an empty belly was dreadfully overdue.

“Breakfast has been prepared in the main dining hall, my lord.” Alaric confirmed, as if reading his master’s mind. The old butler however, seemed more than a little preoccupied with his own fair share of thoughts as he delicately plucked the bloodied and half chewed carcass off his once serene dining room table. “I think it might be best then if were to save this… lovely gift for another time.” He added, his frown struggling to turn itself into an apologetic smile as he noticed Rook’s attention. “I’ll go dispo- put this in the pantry, then I suppose.” Alaric continued, neatly moving off with the ears of the wolf’s kill awkwardly pinched between his leathery fingers.

“Can I assume this will be a common occurrence now that young Rook has now joined us in the manor, sir?” The butler subtly whispered out of ear shot of the others as he passed by Elias. The soldier sighed, hiding a smile that threatened to reveal itself as he quietly replied. “I’m not entirely sure he’s even house broken yet, Rueger.”

“…How delightful.” Alaric grumbled, flat faced and utterly unamused. “Well, I shall summon your guest to join you.” This last part he said with an open air of clarity before departing.

“There!” Bella declared as the clank of Elias’s final piece of armor falling away heralded the young slave’s success with her lofty disarmament. “Guest?” The stryfer inquired quizzically at the girl. Bella gave him a mischievous grin, one she shared briefly with Shiress for a painfully unmistakable moment before leaning in and almost childishly whispering in the Caldera’s ear. “Ah, yes. I know all about ‘them.’” Elias replied grimly to the words only he had heard. He shot a sidelong glance at his Zeltivan mistress that seemed more accusatory than anything else.

“Einar!” Elias hollered suddenly, turning from the slave and setting off towards the familiar aura of the mercenary as Bella went about her business of grumpily cleaning up after him. Abruptly, the house felt alive now, humming with an air of activity as everyone melted away from the entrance to go about their tasks here and there. Elias’s arrival had been like striking a hornet’s nest, and it felt like the only one not stirring was Shiress…

I wonder why.

“Mercenary, where are you hidi-” Elias came striding into the room where they had -for a lack of a better term- sequestered their dear Sunberther ‘acquaintance.’ As the soldier lay eyes on the shaggy sellsword however, he froze in shock. “My god man, what have they done to you?” He gasped, gawking at the slayer’s choice of fine garb and fancy clothes. He’d never seen the mangy man draped in anything other than viscera and bad choices, but now, to behold him as he was in this very Ravokian, and very cultured way… well, Elias had to admit, the merc cleaned up rather nicely.

Well, as nicely as one could expect with Einar Belugnir. Putting a fancy skirt on a donkey’s ass didn’t exactly hide the horrors beneath, and the soldier had to wonder if his internal fortitude would be enough to overcome eating a meal while also staring at that battered hunk of hairy beef jerky that was the slayer’s face these days. Good lord, the man looked rough. What in the name of Rhysol had happened to him since last they met? Elias shook his head and motioned for the mercenary to follow. “Come along then, sit with me at my table. You can watch me eat if you’re not feeling particularly peckish.”

The truth was, the gesture of dressing up, if it was that, was appreciated. For whatever reason Shiress had invited the killer into their home, and in return he’d had the good sense and the common decency to at least put on the facade of gentlemanly decorum. It was an unexpected yet pleasant surprise. That, on top of the fact that the man had been there and played a pivotal role during the stand off with the Larks had slowly but surely begun to endear the pale sorcerer to the sellsword’s ‘unique’ personality, or at least left him more enduring of it, but so long as it was always accompanied by his very specific set of skills, of course. It wasn’t as if Elias had been paying the man for his jovial company.

“Come, everyone. Sit, eat, be merry.” The master of the house shouted so that all could hear him. “This is a day of celebration after all, and everyone in my home is welcome to a seat at my table…”

“Oh, well I wouldn’t mind a quick bite to-”

“Not you, Isabella.” Elias growled, interrupting the slave before she had a chance to pull up a chair. The prudish girl sneered and stuck her tongue out at him, but the stryfer ignored her petulance, his focus resting solely on the doorway he knew would soon be darkened by a familar shadow. He knew this because he had left the Tigress little choice. He had left a gift for her at the front door after all, a tiny droplet of res lathered unto the elegantly carved wood upon his arrival for just this occasion. Once her golden aura approached, that res would suddenly turn to ice and begin to freeze upon his command, its cold grasp slowly slithering across the handles of the entrance way and sealing them shut. Try as she might to break the doors open, the Caldera manor was now sealed… with her inside.

If the Valdinox slave did finally show the courtesy of answering his not so subtle invitation, she’d find a seat for herself pulled out and humbly offered by Alaric as he finished prepping the table for their hearty meal. One noticeably situated next to the pale son of Ravok who occupied the head of the table, and directly across from a now very distressed Shiress.

“I hope you slept well, slave. I imagine you’ve worked up quite an appetite…” Elias murmured darkly as the Kelvic approached. He glared at the girl, face as cold and devoid of emotion as his voice. As she sat however, the soldier offered an opened hand. A gesture he mirrored to Shiress, with a look of expectance on his face that didn’t exactly seem to broach much room for argument.

“Oh hallowed father…” Elias began as he gently seized hold of both girls as they in turn took hold of Einar, “In your name we give thanks” It was a grace, something the ex-Zeltivan slave or the ‘Berther may not have been all too familiar with given their relatively short and hectic time in Ravok. Alaric and Isabella on the other hand had already bowed both their heads in silent reverence, as one was expected to do, yet Elias’s azure eyes remained eerily open and pinned on the two woman beside him. “We, your faithful servants, your humble children, are grateful to Rhysol and his eternal bride for this bounty you have blessed us with, for the mercy you have bestowed upon us, for your guidance in troubled times, and for your grace which never falters. Forever may he reign.

“Forever may he reign.” The two servants muttered in unison as the prayer came to a close.

“Now,” Elias declared as he snapped into a particularly crunchy slice of bacon, “Who wants to tell me what the hell is going on?”
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With a Little Help From My Friends

Postby Rook on January 30th, 2019, 9:30 pm

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Warmth, happiness, joy. Such was that of the feelings that Rook's bondmate evoked in him. The wolf boy nuzzled Shiress’ neck, feeling a warm glow of happiness enveloping him as his bondmate praised his hunt and suggested keeping a piece of it with her forever. There was no greater joy than the thought of his beloved wearing something that he had given her for eternity. But for all the joy that Rook felt, the words spoken by the kelvic soon sent shadows racing down the line between them. The wake of Elias’ question brought a tangible stab of dread that hung heavy on Rook's tongue. The wolf boy studied his bondmate's face, eyebrows knitting with concern. What was wrong? Why was she so upset? The wolf entwined his fingers with hers and gently squeezed her hand in a tender offer of reassurance. Silently, the wolf soothed his bondmate. Had they not faced down the Lark's side by side? Together they could do anything Whatever it was that had her so worried had nothing against them. As Elias grumbled to his servants and had his armor removed, Rook lingered by his companion's side, sending gentle reassurances through their bond and squeezes through his hand. The pup barely noticed Alaric's comment about his rabbit let alone any of the other comments passing between servants and stryfer; he was far too concerned with Shiress’ growing trepidation, and doing his best to fight it with his own confidence.

Rook's ministrations were only interrupted by Elias’ loud declaration of a familiar name, and the pup's eyebrows shot up in surprise. With Shiress still in hand, the kelvic followed his new master to the room with a mounting excitement as a familiar man's scent grew in intensity. “Belugnir!” Rook said cheerfully as the familiar man's grizzled visage came into view. As far as Rook was concerned, all animosity had been forgotten in the wake of the mercenary's cooperation during the battle with the Larks. If the wolf boy had been his animal form, his tail surely would have been wagging. Rook didn't fully understand his affection for the man himself, but Rook wasn't one to dwell greatly on feelings anyways.

“It's good to see you. How are you? Why do you look and smell so weird?”

The lingering scent of sweat, blood, and desperation that Rook had become accustomed to in the man’s presence was notably lacking at the moment. Frankly the pup found the lack of skins and leather jarring and uncomfortable. It was a bit like someone had taken a crow and stuffed it in a dress. Rook disliked the mercenary's new look immediately and frowned as he looked him up and down. In spite of it all, underneath the clothes was still the same Belugnir though, and regardless how bizarre he looked Rook was still glad to see him.

As Elias spoke to the mercenary, Rook paused, chin lifted into the air. Cat. He frowned and chewed his lip, nostrils flaring. He released Shiress’ hand, just for a moment, to trace the warm scent through the room, pausing before entering the doorway she had exited out of. The wolf walked back over to Shiress to take her hand as they proceeded to the dining room, but this time his hold on her hand was found to be a bit tighter. If Shiress were to feel along their bond, she would find the wolf sharply alert and a hint agitated. Their walk to the food room was accompanied by a careful examination of every corner of the manor that his eyes could reach. If he weren't so keen to keep his bondmate's hand in his, he would have begun patrolling the halls. Elias’ invitation to eat all but fell on deaf ears. The wolf was far too focused to hear anything. Not even his stomach moved him now.

When the tigress finally appeared, Rook locked eyes with her, and his jaw clenched. Even when Shiress’ hand was removed from his in order to indulge in Elias strange ritual, the wolf did not move. His position at the table held him opposite of the cat and beside Shiress. Whatever tension thrummed through the room was completely beyond him so intent was his focus. When Elias finally punctuated the end of his ritual with a question, Rook finally spoke.

“I didn't know she was a kelvic.”

The words came out in a growl. Before anyone had a chance to respond, Rook had flung aside his thin, dark cloak and climbed onto the dining table. A flash of colored lights threw sparks into all the observers eyes and a maned wolf was soon striding across the table. Rook paid no mind of whatever dishes he might be stepping into or over. His focus was razor sharp, and his eye contact never once broke. Orange for tipped with black bristled, and hackles raised. If Zavya held her position, Rook would proceed until his nose was barely an inch from hers. A low, barely audible growl rumbled through his throat, and a tiny slip of white fangs peeked through his lips.
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With a Little Help From My Friends

Postby Zavya on January 31st, 2019, 7:29 am

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Slim fingers brushed the knob, and at first, Zavya thought all was well. No one had stopped her, no one had followed her, and escape was (seemingly) within her grasp. But when she found the door well and truly frozen, the tigress’s lip raised in a snarl. “Petching mages!” she shouted, uselessly rattling the icy portal before slamming her fist against the wood. “What sort of godsforsaken madman freezes his own front door shut?!”

Come, everyone. Sit, eat, be merry. This is a day of celebration after all, and everyone in my home is welcome to a seat at my table…

Halfway toward kicking the door, the Kelvic went still as the Stryfer’s voice drifted out of the dining hall—his call loud enough that she knew he knew where she was. Shyke. Her posture slumped as she drew in a ragged breath, closing her eyes against the mixture of anger and fear that threatened to overwhelm her. After taking a few ticks to regain her composure, Zavya drew her shoulders back and lifted her head high, chin defiant to the air. She would not face Elias Caldera with her tail between her legs. Running had been the far preferable option, but if she was to be stuck here, she wouldn’t do it as a coward.

Slowly and silently, she made to enter the dining room, golden eyes ablaze as they flicked to each person present. First to Shiress, the chestnut-haired beauty at Elias’s side that appeared on the verge of full-on panic. Zavya’s heart swelled to see her, but it was quickly repressed—this wasn’t the time for exuberant greetings. Next, she looked to the red-haired Kelvic at Shiress’s side, instantly recalling the name of her bondmate whom she’d spoken of so adoringly—Rook. This had to be him. Who else could it be? Her eyes sought his with interest, but amber stared back at gold in no friendly way. Clearly, he was none too pleased to find her here.

With a grimace, she briefly turned her attention to Einar, but quickly dismissed him from view, having already been made thoroughly aware of his presence. She looked at Isabella next and did her best to ignore the smug look on her face. At last, she reluctantly settled on the cold scrutiny of the Stryfer, whose eyes had not left her since the moment she entered the room. His gaze froze and burned all at once, the curiously blank look in his eye telling her all she needed to know. He knew what they’d done. But how? She glanced at Shiress next to him, who seemed ready to faint at any moment. Had she told? Surely not. Had one of the servants?

The chair on the other side of Elias was held out by the ever polite Alaric, who gestured for her to sit. Her jaw clenched as she looked between the two, hesitating for the barest of moments before stiffly walking over and settling herself on the edge of the proffered seat. She looked at the elaborate spread of food on the table and fought the urge to gag. Somehow, Zavya had no appetite.

The tigress remained silent as a pale hand was held out to her, staring at his outstretched fingers with an unreadable expression. She had no wish to touch that flesh, but the look on his face brooked no argument. Reluctant and skin crawling, she very lightly placed her fingertips in his palm and tried not to shudder when his hand enclosed hers in its grasp. However gentle, it was not a friendly touch.

Just as Elias’s eyes remained open throughout the prayer, so did Zavya’s, her gaze fixed on the pale soldier and him alone. She dared not even blink, sure the tick she looked away, he’d break her fingers, steal her breath, or something else equally as dire. I didn’t escape one monster to be caught by another, she thought as she stared him down. I’m walking out of here alive and in one piece today.

When the prayer ended and Elias dropped their hands, she yanked hers back faster than she could blink. Before she could even begin to contemplate answering the question that followed, another voice finally took her attention off of the soldier and back onto the young man seated on Shiress’s other side.

I didn’t know she was a Kelvic.

Quicker than any of them could react, sparkling lights were drifting through the air, and a particularly shaggy canine was sauntering across the table in Zavya’s direction. Eyebrows raised in surprise as he stopped in front of her before a growling muzzle was a hairsbreadth away from her face. A snarl was directed her way, hackles raised with a posture that challenged her to contradict his dominance. Zavya almost laughed, releasing a harsh breath. Just who did he think she was, that she would submit so easily?

“Yes, I am a Kelvic,” she told him in a low growl, exposing her own fang in return. Her eyes never wavered from his, silently daring him to close that final inch between them. She was a predator too, and she would be more than happy to prove it. “A petching tiger that has about three hundred pounds on you, mutt, so I would suggest you put that tooth away before I put it away for you.”

Zavya had no wish to make an enemy of Shiress’s bondmate, especially not after the stories the woman had told of his origins—stories so sadly familiar to her own. She’d hoped their first meeting would be under better circumstances, in a calmer atmosphere where she might reach out to a similarly broken soul. Alas, it seemed that was not to be. But she’d be damned if some scrawny little wolf was going to threaten her! The tigress rolled over to no one, much less another slave!

“If you want a fight, dog, we can fight,” she continued, leaning close enough that their noses actually did touch. “But I’d rather not put Shiress through the inevitable anguish. She’s been through enough in the past few days.” Pulling back, she shot the woman an apologetic glance before looking back at the wolf again. “I saved your bondmate’s life, Rook. That’s why I’m here. Not to steal her away or claim her for myself. No. I saved her life, and I condemned my own.”

The hint of a resigned sigh passed Zavya’s lips as she leaned back yet further. “So if you could stop looking at me like you want to eat me for breakfast…” At that, her gaze flicked toward Elias, then back to Rook. “Both of you… It would be much appreciated. If it weren’t for me, your most precious love would be carved up and bleeding out in the private chambers of my own personal psychopath.”

Another deeply apologetic look was spared for the woman before she added, “If you don’t believe me, lift her shirt and see the evidence for yourself.”
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