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The Faerie Queen
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JewellRavenlock
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 16, 2017 1:45 pm    Post subject: The Faerie Queen Reply with quote

October 12, 2017

The clock in the foyer chimed the midnight hour as Jewell was bowed into the stately, Battlefield Park mansion on Ishmerai’s arm. The place was opulent. Old world. Candles set in a large chandelier and countless wall sconces lit up the massive, three story high foyer. Women in gorgeous tufted ball gowns and men in elegant suits lingered here and there in the foyer and on the grand staircase.

Vampires are so obvious sometimes!

“Where--” Ishmerai began, looking around uneasily at the crowd and the way the faerie and her fae companion drew their eyes, but his question went unfinished as a handsome young man stepped forward to meet them.

No, not them. Her.

“Lady Ravenlock, the Night Court is honored to welcome you as our guest.” He bowed to Jewell.

“I was honored by the invitation. Truly.” She smiled sweetly, as charming as can be, at him, offering him her hand. He was handsome: tall, dark hair swept back off his noble brow, bright green eyes. Even the too-sharp incisors could not mar the effect of his boyish smile and good looks or stop her blush when he turned her hand over and kissed her wrist instead.

“I am Théodore Ténèbres, but please do call me Theo. If you’ll--”

“Lord Ténèbres?” she interrupted him, surprised that the son and right hand of the Night Court would come to meet her. This was serious indeed.

He grinned, bashful. He was turned so young! “I am not often called Lord. But please, my lady, this way. I do not think we wish to keep my father waiting.” He offered Jewell his arm. She glanced aside to Ishmerai as she took it. “Your knight is welcome to wait here for you. We will not keep you forever, as much as I may want to.”

Jewell gave her assent in a nod to Ishmerai. The knight bowed to them both before Lord Ténèbres ushered her down the hallway. Music from the ballroom filtered through the walls as they made their way further into the house and down a short flight of stairs. A waltz. “Do you dance, Lady Ravenlock?”

“Jewell, please. And I do. I love to dance.”

“Perhaps I can steal you away for a dance or two after our business is concluded and if your knight will allow me the chance.”

Her pulse quickened, and she was too aware of the way his eyes darted briefly to her neck as it did. “I would like that.”

He stopped them before a set of double doors, which opened of their own accord. “The Lady Ravenlock to see you, father.”

There were two vampires sitting at a mahogany table inside the warmly lit study, waiting for her. The one on the right was a young woman, a timeless beauty with honey blonde hair plaited neatly and wrapped around her head. Her eyes were green like Theo’s, but lacking all the warmth his had. Another was in the corner, sulking over a glass of bloodwyne. The man at the head of the table was a different creature entirely. Old. Older than she was. Ancient perhaps. His hair was dark, and had been receding in a drastic widows peak when he was turned. His eyes were dark too and cold. He was staring at her.

“Jewell, would you like--”

“Théodore, sit.”

“But father--” A glance was all that took to silence him. He pulled out the chair at the other end of the table for Jewell, who thanked him with a smile, before taking his seat at his father’s right hand.

She was left sitting directly across from Earl Ténèbres, Lord of the Night Court. Her intelligence had been unclear if his name was truly “Earl” as he was more often known as the Earl. He didn’t bother to introduce himself. “Surely you must be wondering why we requested you meet with us this evening, Lady Ravenlock.”

“You aren’t here with a lucrative business deal?”

The two younger vampires shifted uncomfortably. The Earl just smiled. The fourth one lingered in the corner and sniffled. “If only. Unfortunately, it seems that there has been a growing problem with the fae of this city. Since Midsummer, when the Veil fell, they have become… uncontrollable. That was problematic, but no reason for us to be concerned. Lately though, there are rumors of a sidhe of great power ruling over them.”

“And what is the problem with that? Surely rogue fae are no problem for the great Night Court, strongest of all the vampire courts in RhyDin.”

He smiled faintly at the compliment. Actually, it was more of a twitch of his lips. “The problem is that she is rather… unhinged.”

Theo spoke up: “*** crazy is more like it.”

“Théodore,” Lord Ténèbres reprimanded him.

“What?” he responded defensively. “The bitch is drinking our blood!”

“She glamoured my Lobelia into a pink velour tracksuit!” The female--who Jewell assumed was Célestine, the Earl’s eldest daughter--added with an angry hiss as her slender fingers curled into fists. It was the first time she had spoken.

“And she BIT Victor!” Théodore waved to the sniffling man in the corner. Poor Victor gave Jewell a rather dejected look as he angled his neck to expose his bandages. “This will not stand!”

“Okay,” Jewell admitted reluctantly, “she does sound like a problem. But what do you expect me to do about it? Why come to me and not the governor? She is--”

“That is not an option,” the Earl cut her off in a flash of anger. There was no breath, no sigh, only a subtle shift in his expression as he composed himself and changed tack. “Lady Ravenlock, you are quite formidable. You consort with devils and demons. We hear you had a hand in killing one recently.”

Her eyes ticked to the cut healing along her forearm before she met his cold gaze. “I haven’t killed anyone.”

“Just so. Just so. Yet you are one of the most well-known sidhe in the city. We thought perhaps you would want to do something about this situation before we are forced to take matters into our own hands.”

Jewell bristled. “You come to me as Autumn begins and you want me to do something about a crazy sidhe and her wild band of fae?” She narrowed her eyes at them. They knew her power was waning. Jewell was of Summer. Despite her rather blood-thirsty ways, she was a member of the High Seelie Courts. Nothing had changed that. Not even dying. She could only assume that they hoped she wouldn’t be able to do anything about the rogue fae so they could take matters into their own hands and still be within the honor codes of the old world.

The Faerie Courts couldn’t be upset at the slaughter of their people if the Night Court had made an effort, in good faith, to prevent it from happening.

As much as Jewell wanted nothing to do with such matters, she couldn’t not do something. They were right. She was one of the most well-known sidhe in the city. If power shifted to the vampire courts completely? Her people would suffer.

But if she did something about it, she would suffer.

Her heart beat nervously in her chest.

“Fine. I will do something about these rogue fae. What do you know of this leader? The wild sidhe you mentioned.”

The two lesser vampire lords looked between each other as their father spoke up, truly smiling for the first time since she walked into the room. “My lady, do you not know?”

“You are their leader.”
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PostPosted: Thu Oct 19, 2017 6:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

October 12, 2017

She leaned forward in the carriage, speaking over Ishmerai’s shoulder to the driver. “The Tower of Gulshan, Old Market please.”

“Mira, what are you doing? It is well after midnight. I think this can wait until morning.”

Jewell sat back as the carriage started to roll down the circular drive, away from the Ténèbres estate, slouching across from the fretting knight. “It cannot.” She had only stayed long enough with the vampire lords to thank them for their hospitality and the information they had offered--and promised Théodore a dance another time when he insisted on seeing her to the door and pressed her hand to his lips--before making a hasty retreat.

“You really cannot think--”

“I don’t know what to think! But it could be her. That’s enough reason to be concerned, isn’t it?”

“How is that even possible? Is it not more reasonable that someone is just using a very strong glamour? Or that the Night Court is deceiving you in some way? They probably want something from you.”

She twisted to stare out the window, scowling at a shade that waved to her as the carriage bumped and rocked back towards the city proper. “That’s what we’re going to find out.”

“I just find it difficult to believe that she got out.”

What Ishmerai didn’t say, but what they both were thinking, was that he really hoped she hadn’t gotten out. Jewell leaned forward, her forehead touching the frosty glass. “I know.”

*****

Three years ago...

Jewell brushed singed blue hair away from her bloody and bruised face with the back of her hand, staring down at her vanquished enemy. Two prison guards were affixing iron manacles to her wrists even as the woman writhed and hissed, attempting to bite one of them.

The Empress put an end to that with a high heel to her stomach. “Oomph!” the air rushed out of her foe’s lungs.

“That’s enough of that. Just settle down. You’ve lost. And I cannot have you running around RhyDin. My RhyDin. I won’t. You will not destroy my city like you did your own. Just be thankful that I am not going to kill you. Maybe that would be more merciful, but I won’t do it. So you’ll stay here.”

The guards tightened her bounds, securing her legs as well. This did not at all deter the prisoner, who lept up as soon as the guards retreated, pulling her chains as far as they would go in her attempt to get at Jewell. The Empress did not back up, simply raised her hand to halt Ishmerai. The prisoner was stopped mere inches from Jewell. She smiled. It was a familiar smile, one she saw each morning in the mirror, although a little unhinged.

“Just wait and see, Jewellsie love,” she whispered. “I’ll take your city just like I did my own. And then I’ll wring that pretty little neck of yours. Oh, it'll be so orgasmic to kill myself!” Her moan turned into delighted laughter as she tumbled back onto the straw that would serve as her bed for the foreseeable future.

Jewell shared a look with Ishmerai, who merely shook his head and preceded her out of the room. She cast one more glance over her shoulder at the other woman just before the solid iron door clanged shut behind her. She was sucking on a blood-soaked piece of blue hair, savoring it like it was candy, and humming. “Enjoy your stay, Jewell.”
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 27, 2017 5:20 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

October 13, 2017

She grabbed the torch from the one guard standing dumbly at the bottom of the stairs, handing it off to the knight at her side as she started up the winding staircase at the heart of the Tower of Gulshan. “I know the way,” she cut off the protestations of the other two guards who had drawn the late shift this evening. Her red high heels clicked on the uneven stonework, threatening to throw her off balance. She did not waiver. Instead, she gathered the skirt of her long black dress away from the floor, careful not to let it touch the filth or trip her as she stomped up the stairs.

Prisoners on the lower level saw the flickering of the torch, they felt her presence, her anger. They cried out for favor “Lady! Lady, help me! Please!” and derided her “The bitch is back! All hail our faerie queen!” That roused many of them. Wooden plates and cups slammed against the iron bars that imprisoned many of the lesser members of the Sidhe Syndicate and Fae Dynasty. There were others too. Jewell had done a lot to secure Little Elfhame and control the fae community at large in RhyDin, but Gulshan was filled to the brim as a result. These people did not love her. They hooted, hollered, and cursed her. They spit at her as she passed by and gnashed their teeth.

She ignored them. She didn’t need their love or approval.

It was quieter at the height of tower. The doors were all solid iron here. Thick. Impenetrable.

“That one.” Ishmerai nodded.

“I know.” She marched forward towards cell 503, flinching subtly at the burn of the iron in the air as she waited for the guard to catch up and bring forth the keys. “Open it,” she demanded impatiently.

He was not fae-kind, and she did not have gloves, so she wisely waited until he found the right key by the flickering light of the torch Ishmerai held aloft and got it in the door. The knight scowled as his assistance was needed in pushing the heavy door open, singing his hand in the process. Jewell did not wait for him and the torch, stepping into the cell with a hand raised in front of her; there was a warm, silver light cupped within it.

Ishmerai was a step behind her, looking with suspicion then dismay at the quivering, grovelling mirror image of his lady on the filthy, cell floor. By all appearances, she was Jewell: blue hair, petite frame, big grey eyes swimming with tears.

It was a powerful glamour to withstand all the iron in the room.

“I didn’t. I didn’t do it. I swear I didn’t do it.” She cried, rocking back and forth. “She made me do it. She made me. It was her! Not me. Not me. It wasn’t me.”

“A fetch.” The fae knight supplied, disgusted.

“I know what a fetch is,” Jewell growled over her shoulder. “How did she get out?” She looked to the guard standing on the doorway.

“We don’t know, m-m’lady,” he was trembling.

The light in Jewell’s hand had flared with her anger. These people were useless. She turned her attention to the fetch, who was crawling forward on chained hands and knees, reaching for the edge of her dress. “It’s not me. I didn’t do it. I swear!”

“Stop. Hold still. I will release you.” It was difficult with all the iron in the room, but it needed to be done.

“I would not touch her, Mira,” Ishmerai warned. “She might be dangerous. I cannot tell what sort of creature she is beneath the glamour.”

Jewell spared him a scathing look--the knight was always telling her her business!--before she reached out and touched the fetch on the head anyway. She found the threads of glamour binding her, disguising her. It was powerful and so familiar but hastily done. Jewell plucked at a thread of it before pulling, unravelling the entire spellwork from around the woman at her feet.

In place of her doppelganger was a woman with pale green skin and dirty pink hair. “Who are you? What’s your name? How long have you been here?”

She marvelled at her own arms, a look of relief crossing her face that was quickly crushed by Jewell’s interrogation. “I… I don’t know,” she sobbed.

Jewell sighed impatiently and attempted to soften her tone. “Come now. There’s no need for tears. Guard, unchain her please.” She waved the useless guard forward and waited for him to undo the girl’s bonds. “Now child, what is your name?”

She rubbed at her wrists where the iron had left deep, weeping wounds. “A-Alyse. I think.”

“And Alyse, how long have you been here?”

“Since Midsummer.”

*****

Four months ago...

Life in the Tower of Gulshan was tedious.

There was breakfast at dawn. Her cup of water mid-morning. Lunch. Another cup of water after. And then dinner. In-between there was a whole lot of nothing. Nothing to read. Nothing to play with. They frowned on her type of play it seemed. They wouldn’t even allow her some paper and a quill. Not after she had stabbed the one guard in the leg with the first one they gave her. She had only wanted to see him bleed a little! Apparently her behavior was unacceptable.

So Jewell sat. She counted the straw in her cell. She waited. She dreamed and plotted and drank the three cups of water allotted to her a day, every day.

Today, things were a little different.

The air had been changing for few weeks now. It was becoming sweeter. The bite of the iron didn’t hurt so much. Her brain didn’t feel so dull. Her senses were not as blighted.

Her eyes shot open at noon, and she hissed. “Yessss.”

The Veil had fallen. The vines that had been creeping up along the outside of Gulshan for several days now grew rapidly and wildly, breaking through the the iron walls of her prison cell. They crawled down the chains and manacles that bound her. At their touch, the iron melted away, absorbed by and into the Faerie Wyldes. “Oh. Oh yes.”

She tore her arms and legs free from their natural, flimsy bindings and stood on unsteady legs for the first time in three years.

Then she laughed.

The vines were creeping everywhere. Lush green grass grew across the floor of her cell while the ceiling was a canopy of forget-me-nots. “How fitting!” She reached up and plucked one down, spinning it between her fingers. “I do prefer belladonna though.”

The wall and door leading to the hallway was steadfastly iron even as moss grew around it, filling in the cracks. That wasn’t a problem, though. The magic of Faerie thrummed in the air, and she drew upon it, fortifying her body. She had been beaten once. She had become weak in the intervening years.

No more.

The emaciated sidhe spun in place, gleeful. Then she reached out into the air, pulling on something unseen and bringing it down towards the ground like a zipper. The air rippled as a portal opened in the once iron-saturated cell. About to step through and leave the dreadful tower behind, she paused momentarily and glanced back at the vines she had so recently broken free from.

“Hmmm. We should do something about that, love.”
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 28, 2017 9:49 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

October 13, 2017

Jewell had momentarily commandeered Captain Gagnon’s office on the bottom floor of the Tower of Gulshan. It was a well appointed but rather spartan room. All the furnishings and decorations were functional. Practical. The small plant she had sent to the Captain last winter as a gift was nowhere to be seen, but Jewell didn’t have time to fret about its fate just now. “I need you to get the truthseer in here. You know, the new girl? What’s her name?”

“Ila,” Ishmerai supplied. He knew everyone who worked for House of Summer.

“Right. Her. Get her in here. I want to make sure none of the guards had anything to do with this.” She turned to Captain Gagnon, who was bristling at the insinuation that one of her guards had been complicit in this crime. Alix Gagnon had rushed from home at Jewell’s call, yet the buttons of her jacket were done to perfection, and there was no sign of bedhead in her slicked back hair. She was neat. In control. The perfect captain. And she was receiving a dressing down from her commanding officer. “Why didn’t you notice this sooner?”

She didn’t take it well. “With the failing of the Veil and the growth of Faerie Wyldes, it was impossible. It interrupted all our security measures. Even the ones you insisted upon,” Alix responded defiantly. She was on Jewell’s payroll, but she never cowered before the diminutive Empress. “After the summer solstice, we assumed she was just acting a little stranger than normal. She tried to escape, and she kept screaming, ‘I don’t belong here!’”

“Why didn’t you send me a notice of these incidents?”

“I did, Lady. Several, in fact,” she added testily.

The faerie colored. This was what happened when she didn’t pay enough attention, but Ishmerai was supposed to notice. He was supposed to be paying attention when she was not. She looked at the knight.

“My apologies, Mira. I received Captain Gagnon’s notices, but I did not think anything of it at the time. I trusted to her oversight in this matter when I should have followed up myself.”

She met his eyes, teeth working at the inside of her cheek. He was not really at fault. She was at fault. Ever since February, she had been too wrapped up in her own head to mind her business. Jewell nodded curtly, turning back to the Captain. “My apologies, Alix. You have been a valuable asset to our House, and Gulshan has never been in more capable hands. I will handle this situation from here. Please just do one thing for me?”

The Captain nodded, pacified by the praise. “Of course, Empress.”

“I need you to go through the other prisoners. Make sure nothing else is amiss. Make sure she didn’t take anyone with her on her way out.”

“Certainly. It will be done immediately.”

Jewell breathed a sigh of relief. “Thank you. Also, provide the girl--she said her name is Alyse--with accommodations for the evening. Secure accommodations. I need to question her more, but that can wait. I’ll send the apothecary over to examine her, and then Ishmerai will likely come for her in the afternoon.”

Captain Gagnon bowed her head. “It will be done.”

*****

It was close to dawn, but Jewell couldn’t sleep. Still in the dress she wore to meet the Night Court the previous evening, she sat at the dining room table, one leg tucked beneath her. So many important discussions happened at this table. At the moment, she was leaning against it, scooping up soggy Loopy Fruit cereal and chatting between mouthfuls. “The good thing is that she’s been out all this time and hasn’t caused any trouble.”

“No trouble? Mira, I have been telling you for months that something is amiss. Your people have been telling you. The vampire court just told you!” He ticked things off on his fingers, “The organizing of the fae who came over at Midsummer. The resurrection of the Fae Dynasty. Unseelie running loose in the streets. Attacks on mortals. More and more people leaving Little Elfhame. More people staying in Little Elfhame yet failing to pay their community tax.”

“Yet you didn’t put the pieces together!” she responded in anger, dropping the spoon into the bowl, splashing milk onto the tabletop. “It’s all well and good to tell me something is amiss, Merai. But you didn’t find out what it was.”

His own frustration got the better of him. “I am not a detective, Mira. I cannot do everything for you. You need to be paying attention too.”

She frowned, looking away. He was right. She had been too depressed. Too anxious. Too wounded to do anything about anything. “I’m sorry. You’re right. I just…”

“I know,” his voice was softer now. He came and took a seat across from her. “You have been struggling. First with the Temple,” she shifted uncomfortably when he named them, “and then the visit to Perihelion.”

“It’s not just the Temple, Merai,” she admitted slowly. “It’s everything. The children. My magic. My name. Muirenn. The nightmares. Trouble in Faerie. Trouble in RhyDin. Kal. Does any of it ever end? It’s just all… it’s too much,” she said despairingly, her eyes welling with tears. “And now…” She stopped short. Again. She stopped short of telling him that they were up against a fierce opponent that she didn’t stand a chance of beating because her heart was failing a little bit more every day. “I just wish--”

“That you had killed her,” he supplied.

No. That Kal hadn’t saved my life that night. “I should have.”

“But you did not. And for what it is worth? I think you made the right call at the time.”

She smiled half-heartedly. His approval wasn’t worth much. Not now. “Thanks.” She busied herself with wiping up the splashed milk with the edge of her napkin. “I suppose we’ll have to do something about her, huh?”

“You suppose?”

Jewell shrugged, retrieving her spoon from her bowl and trying to fish up a few of the orange cereal loops that were bleeding their color into the milk. She wasn’t looking for a fight. Didn’t want to fight. She was tired. Worn out. Everything was too hard. Too much. These trials never ended. “No. We’ll do something about her.” She ate another mouthful of cereal, talking as she chewed, “I just don’t get it though. Why hasn’t she come after me yet? What has she been waiting for? What has she been doing all this time?”
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 03, 2017 1:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

October 13, 2017

Four months ago...

“Who gave you eyes like that?” Carly Rae asked on the radio and Jewell sang along, stepping out of the shower. “Said you could keep them?” She laughed as she wiped the condensation off the mirror and grinned at her reflection, “Not me!”

It felt so good to be clean. To be free. To have the water embrace her and then bend to her will once more. They never let her have any water in the Tower of Gulshan. Only enough to survive. She’d have to take a bath later to really enjoy it, but that would require finding somewhere else to stay. At the moment, this little apartment suited her needs.

“Daniel!” she cracked the bathroom door open, naked as the day she was born and dripping water all over the tile floor. “Come here, darling.”

The poor young man bumped into the wall as he rushed from the living room at her call. “Yes, m’lady?”

“Queen,” she replied testily. “I will be queen.”

The young man flinched back at the correction, “My queen. Yes my queen. Of course my queen.”

“Better.” She smiled and turned back to the mirror, dipping her finger into one of the jars on the sink and dabbing a brilliant red on her lips. “When is your roommate coming home, dear?”

“Any minute now, my queen.”

“Good. I’m hungry, but I don’t think you’re really in the condition to cook. Are you?” she turned to the young man, grey eyes bright and merry with mocking mischief.

No, Daniel was not in any condition to cook. He had once been an expert at frozen pizzas and instant mac n’ cheese, but it was difficult for him to cook now. It was difficult for him to do much of anything now besides stand there, ready to grovel at her feet even as the blood continued to stream down his face and onto the floor.

Removing his eyes had been messy work but absolutely necessary. He should not have tried to scratch out her eyes when she forced her way into his apartment. That had been necessary too. There had been just enough elvish in his blood to make him initially resistant to her glamour and he had refused to invite her in, but he broke eventually.

They all broke eventually.

“No, my queen. I’m sorry my queen.”

“Aww,” she stepped towards him, stroking his bloody cheek. “Don’t worry, my love. You will still be very useful to me. Won’t you?”

Even without eyes and charmed out of his mind, he could still sob. “Of course, my queen!”

Jewell leaned forward and kissed him, moaning against his lips as she savored the taste of his blood. “Mmm that’s a good boy. You really taste so yummy,” she stepped closer, pressing her naked body up against his.

“Daniel?” a young woman’s voice came from the hallway. “Why is the front door open?”

“Oh good!” she chimed, practically shoving him aside, forgotten for now. “My new chef is here.”


*****

Three months ago…

The July heat was oppressive in the dingy hotel conference room near the spaceport where the remaining members of the Sidhe Syndicate met. There were eight of them, all heart-breakingly beautiful and full of self-importance despite the fact that they sat around a chipped, faux-wood table with a pitcher of water at the center, slick with condensation, and a stack of plastic cups. The chairs squeaked horribly whenever someone moved and the air conditioner kept thumping on and off.

The faerie at the head of the table, his long blonde hair swept back off his aristocratic brow with a garish silver circlet, was standing as he made a valiant attempt to sway his compatriots. “She beat us once. Let’s not wait for her to do it again. If we join her,” there was a murmuring from the small group, “we will not have to worry.”

A woman closer to the door shook her head. “Absolutely not. I didn’t just leave Faerie to subject myself to some other tart of a Queen!”

“We have no other choice. If not her, then--”

The door opened. Jewell entered. Eight pairs of eyes widened. She paid them no mind. Her knight--a tall fae with a chitinous exoskeleton and a giant war-hammer in hand--blocked the door as she moved around the table, hips swaying to music only she could hear as she approached the faerie who had spoken in favor of joining The Empress and her merry band of fae.

“Lady Ta-Neer…” he began to stammer out, alarmed even though he was the one that had been speaking in her favor. “I was just trying to convince my friends that we should--”

They were all saved from having to listen to him repeat his poor arguments again. Jewell pulled the tepid water from the pitcher on the table, arming herself with razor-sharp ice claws on her right hand, which she then used to cut his throat. He reached up, his blood spilling over both hands as he tried to staunch the wound. Mercilessly, she shoved him out of the way before taking a seat at the head of the table in his place.

Seven pairs of eyes stared back at her now. “Well, I think we can all agree that he was an idiot, huh?” Silence greeted her. She smiled. “If the little faerie Empress isn’t of your taste, why not try another Jewell, my friends?”

*****

One month ago…

“I do not understand what you are waiting for, my queen.” Betelgeuse had been her loyal knight since she set up shop in RhyDin once again. Her right hand.

She could be rather impatient though.

“She has not been in the public eye this summer. She lost her dueling title. The Sidhe Syndicate, the Fae Dynasty… they are all yours now. We should act!”

Jewell was not impatient. Not anymore. The Tower of Gulshan had taught her that one thing if nothing else.

She would have her revenge, but it had to be at the right time. “I need to see her weakness, Betel. I want to watch her bleed.”

Two days later, she was watching the small television when she found just what she needed. The set was plagued by static, the glass cracked. It had been stolen from dear Daniel’s apartment before he departed this world for the next. Poor kid just didn’t have the stamina to serve her, but her little human toy was far from her mind right now. Her attention was riveted on the spider-webbed screen, watching a news report highlighting some politicized charity event taking place in Dragon’s Gate.

“Do I have a comment?” The Empress bitch laughed, her pretty face marred by a crack in the glass. “When do I not have a comment? To start? I’m pretty sure I’ve been called worse.” There were some chuckles in the background before she carried on, “And I’m a little unclear why the young lady cares about the creatures I allow into my bed. I mean, don’t most people let their pet cat sleep on their bed sometimes? Cupcake is so cute and I just can’t say no!” She grinned at her own stupid joke. “But seriously now, it’s sad that some women think that in order to gain power and prominence, they have to put down the women who are already there.”

“Are you saying she’s just jealous?” one reporter asked.

“Noooo,” The Empress stated slowly before smiling, “but really, who wouldn’t be? I’m rich, powerful--”

“Beautiful!” another reporter shouted from the back.

Jewell growled at the TV, throwing the nearest object (some man’s shoe) at it. The whole set rocked back. “Get on with it!”

“Hey, you said it, not me!” Jewell continued on screen. “I was going to say modest.” Another round of chuckles. “But really, shouldn’t we be raising each other up rather than having her try to step on my head to raise up herself? Women should be empowering each other. We should be working together. We should be allies, not enemies. I--” Jewell genuinely seemed to hesitate, her voice hitching. The other Jewell scooted to the end of the sette she was sitting on, grey eyes eager. “Like many other women in this city, I’ve suffered abuse. I’ve--” she stopped, pressing her lips together, “I’ve been sexually assaulted. Recently. There are bigger fights and bigger problems than my supposed vices…”

Her terrible double was still talking, but Jewell wasn’t listening anymore. She was smiling. Laughing. “Yes. You do have bigger problems, Jewellsie. You really do.”

*****

One week ago…

Lord Ténèbres shoved her roughly back onto the wooden chair, “I said sit. My father should be here shortly.”

She leered at him as he moved over to the sidebar to pour himself a glass of wine. He needed the whole damn bottle after dealing with her. “Oh darling, I do like men who are rough with me. Look at all the pretty bruises you gave me,” she stretched one, creamy arm spotted with black and blue marks out in front of her. “They go so well with my hair.”

“Don’t make me get out the iron manacles,” he warned her over his shoulder.

Jewell took that as a promise. “Whips and chains and a little bit of pain…” she sang before he turned, cuffing her across the mouth. A bit of blood trickled from her lip and she grinned at him. His pupils instantly dilated. Her tongue darted out, slowly, agonizingly taking a little taste of her own blood. “Mmmm so sweet. Want a taste, handsome? I promise you, I’m delicious.”

He took a deep, shuddering breath but couldn’t resist taking a step towards her. Fortunately, at that moment, the door opened. “Théodore.” The young vampire backed away from Jewell. “You look unsightly.” He did. It hadn’t been easy to subdue the wild sidhe, convincing her to come with him. His jacket was torn, his hair mussed, and there was bloodlust in his eyes now. “Go feed.” Théodore turned to leave, pausing when his father spoke again. “But see to your brother first. I believe Lady…” the Earl looked to Jewell.

“Belladonna.”

“Yes. I believe Lady Belladonna bit him?”

Her grin for the Earl was much tamer, “Only a little.”

Théodore Ténèbres nodded, eyeing the faerie wearily as he left the room. The Earl waited until the door was shut behind his son before taking a seat across from Belladonna. “My lady, I hope my son was not too rough with you.”

“Not at all. I enjoyed it immensely.”

“Of course.” The Earl was unflappable. “I understand that he believes you are a threat and treated you accordingly.”

She knew a proposition when she heard one. She leaned forward, “And you?”

“I believe you and I could be of use to one another.”

*****

Today…

She stood on the seamstress stand before three broken mirrors, admiring her fractured reflection as dozens of blood red lips blew kisses back at her. A somewhat humanoid looking fae with eight arms and half-moon spectacles skittered this way and that, weaving black silk thread around her into a fine dress.

“My queen?” Betel stepped into the room.

“Yes?”

“She was seen leaving Gulshan early this morning, my queen.”

“Excellent. And the invitations?”

“Ready to be sent out whenever you want.”

The myriad of reflections all showed sharp, pearly white teeth in a vicious grin. “Wonderful.”
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 03, 2017 1:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

October 28, 2017

She spun the black piece of cardstock on the table, the point of one corner digging into her finger, watching the purple lettering blur together.



On the back was a personal note:

Jewellsie,

I’m so hoping you can attend my coronation! It just wouldn’t be the same without you there.

xoxo

Jewell


Coronation. The bitch was going to have herself crowned queen? Of what? Little Elfhame most likely. Jewell let the invitation flop onto the surface of her desk as she slouched back into her chair, pinching the bridge of her nose to ward off a headache that was already raging.

“I am glad we have the transfer spell set up.” The knight offered finally, having waited silently for her to say something for several minutes now.

“Yeah.”

“She has likely been planning this for some time…”

“Yeah.”

He fell silent. Then: “Which of the girls are we bringing with us to this particular disaster?”

She forced herself to sit upright once more, dropping her hand and meeting his concerned gaze. “None of them. Just you and me this time, Merai.”
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 03, 2017 2:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

October 31, 2017

La Mer Hotel was once the crowning jewel of Dockside. Built away from the docks themselves, it was situated across one of the many canals running through the district and boasted a commanding view of the harbor from its rooftop garden four stories up. In bygone days, it was surrounded by lively boutiques, restaurants, and bars and frequented by those entering town through the nearby port of call on luxury vacation cruisers. Now it was mired in squalor. Weeds and garbage choked the canal. The dock where the gondola used to drop off guests had decayed away, falling into the water. The nearby shops and restaurants were empty, boarded up, and frequented by squatters rather than the rich and famous, while the hotel itself was reported to be haunted.

Like in the old days, a steady stream of guests wearing their very finest streamed through the double lobby doors. Unlike then, the doors were broken and splintered, manned by a half troll with ghastly, green skin and the guests were almost all of fae kind: boggarts and bogies; nymphs and pixies; sylphs and selkies; ogres and trolls; house elves, snipes, banshees, and goblins. Instead of candles in the streetlights, the glasses were crammed with pixies to light up the night.

Ishmerai stepped out of the carriage as it pulled up across the street, giving a kelpie emerging from the canal, dripping with slimy water, a long stare before handing Jewell out of the equipage. She had dressed for the part tonight in a long silver gown of spider silk and dew drops, but there was a slit on the side for easy movement and her shield rings, looking rather plain when paired with true silver and diamonds along the curve of her ears, sat on each of her fingers.

The knight tucked his lady’s arm around his, playing the part of her escort tonight, and moved with the tide up the stairs and through the front door as their carriage rolled away, quickly replaced by another. A party of sidhe exited that one. He glanced back over his shoulder as they passed the half troll doorman, looking them over. They had a human child with them. “Some of our people are here, Mira.”

“I know.” She smiled at the doorman, who did a double-take after her. Even without her signature blue hair, she looked exactly like his lady.

With some misgivings, they entered the one of the two elevator cages for a ride up to the roof, joining a group of dwarves who pointedly ignored them both. The party was taking place in the old ballroom adjoining the garden there. Once a large atrium, most of the glass was long shattered. It still littered the floor, but was joined by dirt, roots, vines, and grass. Very little of the mosaic tilework beneath could be seen. The ceiling was a firmament of stars in the night sky (although somehow different from the ones that were shining outside the hotel), and vines grew along the metal framework of atrium, sprouting belladonna flowers here and there and dotted with faerie lights. There was a stage raised at the other end of the room, refreshments along the nearest wall, a whole piece of the wall missing facing the garden, and a group of mortals with instruments playing a lively tune for a few who had made a dancefloor out of the center of the room.

There was no sign of the other Jewell. Not yet.

“Do we drink?” The knight murmured the question to Jewell.

“We must.” Guest rights would protect them. For a time.

Instead of tables, there were more humans culled from the underbelly of RhyDin. Glamoured senseless, they knelt on the ground, immovable, with trays of delectables lifted up over their heads. Jewell looked over the selection of wine and punch, the latter being served in the mouths of three human teens with their heads tilted back, and plucked up two glasses of the former. “I’m pretty sure this is my wine,” she observed testily as she handed the second glass to the knight, instantly guiding him away from the refreshment “tables”.

Ishmerai sniffed it before taking a sip. “Mm seems like it.”

“Unbelievable,” she muttered, taking a sip and looking around. Some of their people were here, but there were many other fae in the crowd. Fae she had never seen before, many who had likely come to RhyDin on Midsummer’s Day or perhaps who had run away from the city as she had done her best to restore order and control.

They were not friendly faces. This was Samhain. These were Autumn's children.

A girl of Summer did not belong here.
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 03, 2017 2:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mallory hadn’t given the party any serious thought, beyond what to wear and how it fit into the Halloween night she’d already planned with Eri. She decided on the same suit she planned to wear to EgoTrip, complete with a black lace half-mask, a binder, and rhinestone jewelry and cufflinks, with her ¾-inch hair barely long enough to be slicked to one side with product.

Eri had seemed enthusiastic about attending the party but had a pathological lack of imagination when it came to selecting them for herself. So the only nod to a costume the delinquent had worn was a similar half-mask. Her familiar jacket was turned inside out to hide its embroidered images in a sign of respect in an unfamiliar part of the district.

Nothing about the event aroused suspicion -- the glamour on the invitation felt exactly like Jewell’s, and a waterfront hotel sounded like exactly the kind of place where the wealthy fae socialite would throw a soirée. Even the abandoned buildings their hansom cab clattered past didn’t turn her head. Change in RhyDin was sudden and chaotic, with every island of stability within that ocean standing as a monument to one of the city’s many bygone eras. Maybe La Mer was one such island?

It wasn’t until the cab stopped in front of the derelict building dancing with faerie lights that the first warning bell tolled in the witch’s head. “This is the place,” the driver intoned gravely. They were at least a hundred feet from where the other drivers stopped, pulling up in ornate carriages adorned with flowers and filigree, or arriving on the backs of shadowy mares with wild silver eyes. Every set of eyes here was unnaturally bright, which did not surprise Mallory, but the level of mischief and malice that danced within them gave her some pause. The fae of Little Elfhame were more restrained, at least enough to coexist with a mostly mortal city and do business with them, but the way eyes narrowed, nostrils flared and lips curled felt less like they wanted to do business, and more like they were considering exactly how she should be dressed and stuffed.

“This seems a little… old court,” she murmured aside to Eri, “so let’s stay close, don’t take anything you’re offered, and if I start acting strange? Slug me and drag me out. Dead serious,” she added, her pleasantly sly curve of a smile unwavering as they walked arm in arm to the entrance.

Eri seemed aware of the scrutiny on them as they approached the hotel, the stares she received a little more hostile over the curious half-oni in the faes’ midst. However, her expression remained curious, and she kept a faint smile in place. Her head nodded once when she heard Mallory’s instructions: “I understand.”

With that, the pair proceeded inside, as the half-troll doorman turned his disinterested scowl into an unsettling leer…

((Written with Eri's player!))
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 03, 2017 2:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jewell and Ishmerai had took a turn around the gardens, flowerbeds overgrown with poisonous plants and blighted by an early frost and fountains choked with refuse and blood.

They passed by a froggish looking fae pulling the wings off a pixie while it screamed. The knight’s hand encircled her wrist painfully, restraining her from intervening. Sure, Jewell had sent that batch of pixies over to Sal and Cane as a gift once knowing they were likely to meet a painful death as a result. But that had been business. This was just sport. It sickened her a little.

As did seeing a group of sidhe walk around the gardens with human children on leashes. Like pets. The Empress stood rooted to her spot, staring at them, glaring furiously, until Ishmerai put a hand on her back to guide her away, “We should go back inside.”

But inside wasn’t much better. The party was in full swing now. The musicians played furiously, the cellist’s fingers already bleeding. The young woman didn’t seem to notice. The fae were drunk, riotous. Jewell and Ishmerai lingered on the edges, no part of the madness. She grasped his arm tightly when she saw one dancing couple. “That’s Nemander.” One of the higher ups of the Fae Dynasty.

“You locked him away.”

“I did. He should be rotting away in Gulshan.” Instead, he was dancing with a little sprite. Captain Gagnon had just gone through every single cell of the Tower personally not two weeks ago. “I don’t like this.” The knight nodded. Now that she knew to look, she spotted a few other shining members of the faerie community who were supposed to be currently locked up under iron lock and key. Instead, they were here, having the time of their lives.

Emerging from behind a trio of fae, snickering at a glamoured mortal begging for hors d'oeuvres off their plates, were the witch and the delinquent. Eri had managed to keep a faint smile in place as they’d made their way through the crowd, but Mallory’s lips twitched visibly with the effort to hold back a scowl. She was seething.

“Sir Ishmerai; Lady Ta-Neer,” Mallory greeted them with a slow, formal bow, not taking her eyes off the person she assumed was the host of this nightmarish event. “What the **** is the meaning of this?!” she added in a low, enraged hiss, adding a flourish to her bow to gesture at the bleeding cellist, her expression ecstatic as the bow bit into her fingers.

Jewell’s eyes widened in alarm upon seeing Mallory and Eri, and Ishmerai tensed at her side. Dismayed, she was about to ask the witch just what the hell she was doing in a den of unseelie ****ing faeries on Samhain (and moreover, what did she expect from a den of unseelie on Samhain!) but it was too late. The music went suddenly silent except for a snare drum humming out a steady beat. Without prompting, as if following some unheard direction, the crowd shifted, moving closer together and pressing towards the stage.

“Shhh, child,” the petite sidhe shushed Mallory harshly less someone overhear a mortal speaking to the sidhe in such a way. “The real fun is about to start.”

A muscle jumped in Mallory’s jaw, her anger stoked by the chiding, but when she turned to look at the source of the drumming and the reactions of the fae around her, none of them were turned towards Jewell. In fact, they were all but ignoring her, as if this weren’t her show at all… Her fingers curled around Eri’s hand, pulling closer to the delinquent’s side, mercifully ignored by the many fae around them as they all seemed enraptured with anticipation.

The drum reached a frenzied beat and in the sharp shattering of ice, the woman who preferred to call herself Atropa Belladonna appeared.

The mass of fae went wild around the four, screaming out to her, reaching out to touch her. She was quite the vision in a black, gossamer gown. Her lips, as always, were a brilliant red. A fresh red. And on top of her blue hair, flowing down her back, was a crown crafted of dark metal and amethysts.

A crown of deadly nightshade.

“I’d like to thank you all sooo very much for coming. This night… it is more than just the night when Autumn reigns again. No no. Tonight begins a new era in RhyDin, my friends. An era of freedom. For too long you have suffered. You have been forced to control yourselves. To conform to rules that restrain who you are. And for whom? Who benefits from these rules? ” Boo’s rang out through the crowd. The fae hissed and hollered. “That’s right. Mortals. Filthy, disgusting mortals who aren’t fit to lick the dirt from your feet,” she leaned forward, caressing the cheek of a troll standing at the front of the stage before straightening up again. “Yes, we better be careful or the witty bitty wittle humans might get hurt,” she mocked to the crowd’s laughter.

“And who do we have to blame for our sorry state in this city? Who has tried to control us? To change us? To alter our very nature? WHO?” she roared.

The crowd lifted their fists into the air, “THE EMPRESS!”

Well, that was highly disconcerting. Ishmerai’s hand tightened on her arm.

“That’s right,” Belladonna spoke quietly, yet her voice carried through the room. “And where is our little Empress? Come out come out, Jewellsie! I know you’re here. I can smell you. Come out and play.”

Jewell shook off Ishmerai’s restraining hand and made her way through the crowd, which parted easily for her. The glamour pouring off her just screamed: get the **** out of my way. They moved back, making a circle for her in front of the stage. The knight followed behind after a whispered command to Eri and Mal: “Leave. Now.” The pair backed away slowly as Ishmerai strode after his lady.

“Oh there you are!” Belladonna smiled at her. “Everyone, you know our little Empress, don’t you? Yes, I believe you do.” She curled her finger at a fae close to the front of the stage. “Nemander, come here. You know our little Jewellsie, right?” The fae that she had spotted earlier on the dance floor stepped onto the stage and bowed low to Belladonna. She draped her arm around him, turning him to face the crowd while her hand stroked his chest. “Tell us, dear. Why did she lock you away in the Tower of Gulshan?”

Poor Nemander still bore the marks of the iron that had imprisoned him on his wrists and around his throat. He showed the latter off proudly as he lifted his chin. “Bitch did me in for stealing humie children. Told her the little round-ears were better off with us, so she clapped cold iron around me and threw me into that prison of hers.”

The crowd roared.

And he was only the first. There was the kelpie accused of drowning several women. The healer who stole souls. The two redcaps that went on a rampage. The sidhe that road the Wylde Hunt through the streets of RhyDin. On and on and on. Faerie and fae The Empress had kept in check in this mortal city. That she had restrained or punished for just being themselves.

Through all the accusations, the ridicule, the spit aimed at her feet, Jewell stood still. Imperious. Sticks and stones may break my bones…

When she was done with her spectacle, Belladonna sat on a throne conjured with a flick of her wrist. “So here we are,” she stated calmly. “We will suffer no longer needlessly at the hands of this tyrant. I am the true faerie queen of RhyDin.” The fae cheered, raising their glasses to toast their new queen. “And I will protect your rights!”

Still, Jewell did not move.

Belladonna narrowed her eyes. “Well, come on my dear. I know you want to hurt me. I can see it in your eyes.” She held her arms out, relaxing back onto her throne. “I know you want to take me down and so you can continue your reign of terror and oppression. So come on. Here I am, unarmed. Strike me down.” She paused, waiting. Then she sat up with the most delighted, evil grin on her face. “Ahhh but you can’t, can you?” she practically purred out. “Iron poisoning in the heart, is it? How,” she said it like it was the most delicious word she’s ever tasted, “painful!”

When she laughed, the entire ballroom joined her.

“No, I don’t think you’ll be oppressing anyone anymore, will you?” She looked to the crowd, her loyal court, and gestured towards The Empress in their midst. “My loves, why don’t you have a little fun with our little Jewellsie here? Show her how we really feel about her.” Laughing, she twisted on her throne, tossing her legs over the arm and watching with glee as the crowd closed in on the lone faerie and her loyal knight.

“Mira,” Ishmerai warned, taking hold of her arm again with his left hand as he freed a knife with his right.

Jewell paid neither him nor the crowd any mind. She gathered energy in her hand as Ishmerai held them back. Then with a twirl of her wrist, a circle formed on the floor around the pair. A banshee attempting to tear the faerie’s heart out through her back hit the barrier of energy now surrounding them with a piercing scream as her claws turned to dust.

Meeting Belladonna’s furious gaze with a grim smile, Jewell threw her hand towards the floor.

In a burst of water, they were gone.

((Written with Mallory and Eri's player with thanks!))
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 03, 2017 2:50 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mallory’s heart was pounding in her ears as she and Eri walked backwards very slowly, away from the nightshade-crowned woman who wore Jewell’s face. “Oh, there you are!” There was little of this madwoman’s rambling that the witch could hear over the blood pounding in her ears, but these pierced the wall of noise with a spike of fear. Thankfully, Belladonna had not meant either of them; however, the fae they brushed past on their slow path out looked at them with gazes of disgust, hatred, curiosity, and malicious interest…

What sounded to be “criminal” fae, beings sprung from captivity or returned from exile, were being paraded between the Jewell she knew and her unsettling twin, and the distraction afforded the pair of outsiders a little less attention. Mallory forced her expression into an unfelt smile as she struck the back of her left hand against her thigh and murmured to Eri: “Katto... katto...”

She hoped the fae here didn’t understand Japanese, much as she hoped she had gleaned the correct meaning of the word she’d heard Eri and her teammates throw around in the kitchen and at the butcher shop.

Eri had understood the word and the intent. A casual movement as if to adjust the jacket she was wearing had allowed her to discretely retrieve the small higonokami from inside the hem of the garment and conceal the stamped metal handle in her palm. By the time her hand closed over Mallory’s left, she had worked the sharp blade open enough to press the point into the witch’s palm, making the cut as soon as she tensed her fingers.

Mallory only needed a few seconds now that the blood was welling out of the fresh cut. Her hand was tense and ready, the shape of the spell with its ragged tear and lurching thrust across the Veil fully formed in her mind, and her blood sang with the power it required… but its silent song had drawn a growing number of gazes again, beings who scented the magic itself or simply the sweet promise of the witch’s blood, even as the crowd roared over the names of those wronged by Jewell, their darker impulses fed by the woman who now proclaimed: “I am the true faerie queen of RhyDin!”

“Where ya goin’, girlies?” someone gaunt, raven-haired and silver-toothed snarled at the pair; in response to a simple jerk of this eladrin’s head, the long green fingers of a fur-clad goblin tensed painfully around her shoulder from behind. She wasn’t sure how many hands were grasping at her by the time her spell culminated, only that she had a firm grasp on Eri as they vanished in a rippling flash of silver and scarlet.

They felt the chilling breath of the dead and the sting of howling gray mist, glimpsed blackness and ghastly faces, saw flashes of their fellow passengers caught in a moment of panic, a pair of darklings shaken loose and letting out terrified screams as they were torn away, disappearing into the void…

…and then they were in an alley only a few blocks from the crumbling old hotel, tumbling free from each other’s grasps as they landed on mud and filth-slick stonework. Mallory smacked into the wall with her side, turning to face the razor-wielding goblin and the raven-haired eladrin, two hostile passengers who had survived the journey and now stood between herself and the delinquent.

****.

Eri slipped on the slick stones and went to her knees, dropping the small knife she still held. When she saw the razor-wielding goblin near Mallory, she did not take the time to search for the small blade, instead getting to her feet quickly to close the distance. Seizing its weapon hand and applying a wristlock, the delinquent used the leverage to throw the goblin to the ground. Once she had the favorable position, the delinquent wasted no time: she began gleefully stomping the creature’s head under heavy hobnail boots.

The eladrin wasted no time on the goblin falling under the delinquent’s ruthless attack, moving past the pair to the woman who seemed to be their means of escape. He flicked an empty hand at Mallory and a sharp-edged shadow flickered in the air, dissipating across her midsection and biting into her skin in a long, bloody line. “Vindicta,” she hissed at him as she clutched the wound with one arm and hobbled back from him.

He only smiled at the retaliatory wound that tore across her chest, flashing a shining silver smile at her as he closed the distance, one grasping hand filling with a flickering, shadowy mass, but her spell of retribution had only taken a single breath; her next spell was finished before he could reach her, as writhing black tendrils melted out of the stonework and lashed around his limbs, pulling him roughly back against the wall. He merely grunted at the impact, and smiled even wider as he pulled against her eldritch shackles, snapping one after another into little wisps of shadow…

Crunch! A final stomp from Eri’s hobnail boots finally caved in the goblin’s skull, leaving only one foe for the two of them to contend with… a foe who was already pulling himself free from Mallory’s restraints, whose open wound was already sealing itself, and who did not seem the least bit intimidated by the prospect of facing the pair of them alone. “Stay a while and play with Ol’ Jack,” he growled as he dropped back to the ground to advance again.

It could have been pure arrogance, foolish bravado on his part, but the witch wasn’t about to take any chances. She stretched out her hand to the blood-spattered delinquent and cried out her name: “Eri!”

Eri didn’t hesitate when she heard Mallory call her name, lunging over to take the witch’s blood drenched hand. Old Jack was lumbering towards them, silver-capped claws outstretched, but he arrived a moment too late; the witch grasped the delinquent’s hand, folded an arm around her, and they blinked out of sight again, leaving the sadistic eladrin grasping at empty air and screaming in rage.

((Adapted from live play with Eri!))
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PostPosted: Fri Nov 03, 2017 2:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

A circle of silver blossomed on the cobblestones outside of Nooks and Books in Little Elfhame. It rose into a pillar of light, out of which Jewell and Ishmerai emerged, before snapping shut in a rush of air. The knight’s hold on her arm tightened as she pitched forward, heart racing and knees gone weak. “Easy.”

Her head was spinning, but she shoved him away, stumbling forward another step before sinking to her knees in the fine evening gown. “It’s quiet,” she gasped out breathlessly.

“It is.” He looked around. The fae of Little Elfhame had remained indoors tonight, or perhaps they were at the party, celebrating the rise of their new queen. “We should get inside.”

“Yeah,” she agreed with a nod but did not move. Her legs had turned to lead beneath her. There was no strength left in her body.

Ishmerai frowned but wisely only offered her a hand, “Up we go.” She took it, letting him pull her off the ground. “Would you like me to--”

“No.”

They were quiet as they walked slowly, cautiously towards the Mills. The knight watched the streets, the air, the world Beyond on this night when the Veil was thin. He also continually glanced down with concern at the lady at his side, relying far too much on his arm to keep to her feet. “Iron poisoning in the heart, is it? How painful!”

“Mira? What did she--”

“Look,” she nodded up ahead. A moth, a dark blood red against the night sky, was fluttering towards them. She had felt it before she saw it, and it proved to be a good distraction from his question.

“What--”

“Mallory,” she supplied, stopping in front of the Mills building and holding her hand out. It shook uncontrollably as the moth alighted upon it.

Invitation felt like it was from you. Who was that? Eri and I are okay. Are you?

“Answer this, will you?” she handed the moth off to Ishmerai and pushed through the double doors of The Mills at Little Elfhame, heading for the elevator. The knight sent off a hasty response, sending the moth fluttering back into the night, before rushing to join his lady.

As the glass contraption rose, he stood with his obnoxiously impeccable posture while she slumped against the wall, exhausted. He waited for her to answer the question he hadn’t finished asking outside, but when she didn’t and they were nearing the penthouse, he took the conversation in hand once more. “Do you have iron poisoning in your heart?”

She watched the bricks scroll by as the elevator rose slowly. “Yes.”

There was a sharp intake of breath, and he didn’t quite manage to restrain his anger when he asked: “Is it fatal?”

The elevator jumped a little as it stopped on the top floor. Jewell didn’t move, pressing her cheek against the cool glass of the elevator wall and staring out at the empty streets of Little Elfhame below.

She heard Mallory hissing at her last December, “May you wither.”

“Yes.”
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 09, 2017 2:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

November 1, 2017

They worked quickly. Despite their earlier conversation, despite Jewell’s admittance that she was dying, there was work to be done. So they did it.

“Move the couch over there,” she ordered Ishmerai, consulting the book in her hand before setting it on the side table and pushing her favorite reading chair out of the way with a grunt. “Ugh, why is it so heavy?”

She didn’t really expect an answer. Ishmerai was busy rolling up the plush rug that usually covered part of the living room floor, revealing the intricate design--a mixture of markings and words in a foreign language--on the wood floors beneath. “Okay, touch up these marks and check the ones on the ceilings in the outer rooms. I’m going upstairs and check to make sure the ones there are all set and then we can go down into the offices too.” Grabbing the book and a paintbrush, she dashed up the stairs. The silver gown she wore to the faerie coronation was hiked up to her knees, the train thrown over her arm so she didn’t trip.

Twenty-five minutes later, they were ready.

“Are you sure you have enough strength for this?” Ishmerai asked, watching her from off to the side.

“No,” she admitted. She was standing where the rug used to be in the living room, as close to the center of the penthouse apartment and the offices on the floor below as she could get. She was also at the center of the markings and designs they had made throughout all three floors of the Mills at Little Elfhame building, just as the teleportation spell said.

Transference of Property

A spell for moving all belongings from one physicality to another.


On a small scale, like moving a room worth of stuff or even a tiny cottage, it wouldn’t require that much energy. However, Jewell needed to move the entirety of her penthouse apartment and everything in the House of Summer Inc. offices downstairs.

That was a bit trickier. Even moreso when she had a heart rotting inside her chest.

The Empress adjusted the silver dagger in her hand. Blood would make this easier. More powerful.

Less likely to blow up in her face.

“But it needs to be done, sooo…” Jewell took a deep breath. “Here we go.”

She dragged the silver blade across the palm of her left hand and crouched down, pressing the welling blood into the heart of the ritualistic design. “Kelva Ilya Sii!” She poured her energy and might into the words while her blood gave the spell the rest of the power it needed.

The markings throughout the building lit up with a bright, silver glow. The room around the pair twisted and warped; reality shifted around them as magic whisked all the contents of the room away to be deposited in the exact same position and placement (or as close as possible) in the secret bolt-hole she had established weeks ago. Pop pop pop! The couch. The rug. The dining room table. Pop pop pop pop pop! Every object in Sapphire’s lab. Each item of clothing in Jewell’s closet.

The process went on for some minutes before the spell began to fade and reality settled back around them. The rooms were bereft of objects. The walls bare. Jewell was breathing heavily, and Ishmerai stood by, watching her with apprehension.

“It work?” she asked breathlessly.

“Seems to.”

“Oh… good.” She collapsed onto her knees and he rushed forward to assist her. “I’m fine.” She took a deep breath. “I think. Is the room still spinning?”

He frowned, “No.”

“Oh... maybe I’m not fine. Help me up.” She offered him her blood stained hand, thought better of it, and then held out the right one instead.

He easily pulled her up off the floor for the second time this evening. “We should get going.”

“No,” she shook her head. “I want to stay and watch.”

Ishmerai opened his mouth to argue, but quickly relented out of curiosity himself. They could get away later. So for now, he helped her into what had been her library so they could watch at the windows of the empty penthouse apartment in Little Elfhame, waiting for Belladonna to take over.
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 19, 2017 1:33 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

November 8, 2017

Betel hesitated at the entrance to the largest suite in The Empress, the boutique hotel in Little Elfhame once run by none other than The Empress herself. When the faerie bitch had run like the coward she was, Belladonna had taken up residence in the hotel. For a week now, it had been the site of an ongoing party to celebrate the liberation of Little Elfhame. The carpet was still marked with the blood of a few fae who had not willingly submitted themselves to their new queen and had thereafter become part of the entertainment for guests who had been more receptive of a new regime. Some of those very fae were currently sharing the king size bed with Belladonna at this moment.

“My Queen…” Betel finally spoke up.

Belladonna raised her head and gestured for her to come in. Then she pat the bare thigh of the sylph wrapped around her, “Move, lovely. I have duties to attend to.” The girl murmured something before turning over and snuggling up to the fae next to her. Belladonna pushed herself upright against her pillows, reaching over to retrieve a glass of wine from the bedside table as her knight and right hand rushed to her side. “What is it Betel?”

“There is a creature, my queen. Possibly a fae. He was killed several of our people this week. A redcap. Sluagh. A troll. And he has slandered your good name.”

She laughed, “Is that all? And I suppose you would like to know what I’m going to do about it, hmm?”

“Yes, my queen. This dishonor against your name cannot stand.”

“No…” she replied thoughtfully. “That is true. I will have to do something about that. But as for my dear subjects? Maybe they just shouldn’t be so damn easy to kill.”

She took a sip of her wine before setting it down and reclining back once more. “Their kin can take vengeance if they want, Betel. On this creature or whoever else they so choose. Tell them that. Tell them the nights can run red with blood.” Belladonna tugged the sylph closer again, turing and stroking her side. “What did you say its name was, Betel? This creature who dares oppose me?”

“Jinx, my queen.”

“Mmm,” her teeth, sharpened by glamour, grazed the girl’s neck, drawing two lines of blood. “Put a bounty on that one’s head, but I’d rather he be taken alive.”
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PostPosted: Sun Nov 19, 2017 9:09 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

November 16, 2017

They strolled arm-in-arm through their new (but hopefully temporary) home, stopping now and then so he could point out some addition or change that had been made since she had last visited.

“They finished restoring the tile in this hall yesterday.”

“It looks nice. I’m glad they finally removed all the wrought iron too.” Jewell ran her hand along the banister lining the large staircase at the heart of the building; it was in the same style of the original but made of a metal more friendly to the new, fae inhabitants.

A month ago, immediately after discovering that dear Belladonna had escaped from the Tower of Gulshan, Jewell and Ishmerai had gone on a somewhat frantic search for a location that could serve as safe haven, temporary home if the need should arise, and headquarters for House of Summer, Inc. Several places and ideas had been quickly rejected: an old abbey east of the city; retreating to Faerie; a warehouse in Dockside; finding a haven off-planet; a rustic little village close to Mount Yasuo; a building that changed locations every night.

Somewhat desperate, they had heard about the old sanatorium, settled in the mountains far north the city, by lucky chance. When they had wandered the grounds, already blanketed by snow and surrounded by sleepy evergreen trees, and ventured into the long-abandoned building, it was obvious that it fit their every need, being both large and extremely secluded. The nearest village was a small thing tucked into the valley below, inhabited by humans too frightened of the ghosts that haunted the old hospital to dare approach it.

Ishmerai worked with the barrister to procure the property as discreetly as possible while Jewell easily cleared the place of all but a few ghosts. Then it had been a race against time to have the building at least somewhat habitable before Belladonna struck her blow. Work was still ongoing, but it had come along far enough that Jewell had been able to move all her belongings and the offices in following the disastrous Samhain ball.

Almost two weeks later and she barely recognized the place.

“Yes. Everyone is more comfortable without the iron. Obviously. Oh, I almost forgot. Lamont wanted you to know that all the offices are finally in order now.” She wanted to wipe that smug little grin off his face. Her transfer spell had not gone off quite as well as she had hoped. Everything had made it from The Mills at Little Elfhame to the old sanatorium, but some of it had landed upside down. Paperwork… everywhere.

“Yeah yeah. Tell him that I’ll remember to tape the boxes closed next time, all right?” He just laughed. Brat was lucky she didn’t push him down the stairs.

When they reached the lofty foyer, Jewell made for the front doors. “Wait. This way, Mira. I want to show you one more room.”

“Oh,” she didn’t quite hide her disappointment. She wanted to tour the grounds again. “Sure.”

“It will only be a moment,” he promised, “but I think you will like to see this.” He lead her down the large hallway that ran the width of the building, pushing open a set of double doors at the end.

“Oh Merai…” They were in a large, empty atrium. When they had first seen it, all the glass had been broken, littering the tile floors like stardust. Every single pane had since been restored, granting a beautiful view of the face of the mountain towering high above them and the valley below. She released his arm, stepping further into the room and spinning around slowly to take it all in. “It’s…”

He smiled, clearly pleased by her reaction. “I knew you would like it. I had them delay finishing the kitchens because I wanted this done first for you. We thought you might like a fountain at the center, and they will be bringing plants in later this week.”

Yes, that sounded perfect. Here was a place where her heart could be at rest. Where no trials could trouble it. “That sounds wonderful.”

Although loathe to call her away to duty so soon, there were matters they must discuss: “Should we go for our walk now? We can go over the plans for the atrium later if you would like.”

“Mmm,” she nodded, giving one last look at the room before turning back to Ishmerai and stepping close enough to tuck her arm around his again. “Yes, we need to talk.”

*****

The quiet of the woods was a nice change from the hustle and bustle of the city and the Real World house. There were walking paths criss-crossing the property: up, down, and around the mountain. They took one that had a gentle incline for her sake, their boots not leaving even the hint of an imprint in the freshly fallen snow.

The air was so fresh and clean here. It was invigorating.

It cleared her head enough to plot and plan.

“Unless you want to be totally out of sight and stay here,” she made a face and he carried on, “which I know you do not wish to do, then I think you were right. That television house is one of the safest places for you now. In a way, you are hidden in plain sight.”

He was blessed with a sweet smile. She did so love being right. It fell quickly though, “I know. It’s just… how can I stay at that house while my community suffers under her hands? How can I not do more to stop her? It’s so… maddening!” She glanced up at him. “Do you think there is anything else we can do for them?”

Ishmerai shook his head. “The girls are already out on patrol more than they should be. They are exhausted but determined to keep going. Perhaps when you are in better health…”

“Maybe in the spring,” she ventured, not wanting to really give him hope but doing it anyway. Ishmerai was still in denial. He had made several appointments with different specialists for her next week--cardiologists, heart surgeons, and healers--in the hopes that someone would have better news for them. He refused to believe that Jewell was not going to get better.

Which was fine. Jewell was the queen of denial, and she didn’t really want to believe it either.

“Yes. Spring. Things will change with the Spring Equinox. I just know it. All the signs point to it, Mira. So if we can just keep them as safe as we can until then, everything will be fine. We can oust Belladonna. We can rebuild Little Elfhame. Our people will come out of hiding.”

She squeezed his arm, “That sounds great.”

Buoyed by her agreement, he prattled on with grand plans for the future, all too happy to pretend that she had one. “I think we should have the builders tackle the baths you wanted set up in the basement next instead of the upper floors…”
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 21, 2017 6:38 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

November 22, 2017

The view from her bedroom in the old sanatorium was a little different from her room in the Mills at Little Elfhame. There it had been cobblestones and rooftops. Here she had a pine needle forest floor and snowcapped mountains. At the moment, neither current occupant of the room was paying any attention to the scenery. Jewell was staring down at her bare feet, wiggling her toes into the plush carpet. Ishmerai was pacing. He was making her dizzy marching back and forth before the floor to ceiling windows.

“There is still the appointment in two weeks with that other specialist in Stars End. And I also heard about a woman who was known to cure--”

“Enough!” she shouted, looking up at him. “No more, Ishmerai.” Seeing his stricken look, she quickly tacked on more quietly, “Please. No more. I have been poked and prodded and scanned. All for nothing. There is nothing else to do.”

“But Mira--”

“No.” She shook her head. “It’s over. Don’t you see?”

His brow was furrowed as he took a seat on the arm of a chair across from her, his mind racing as he reached for something. Anything.

But there was nothing left. The last few days had been jampacked with a string of doctors appointments and healer sessions: Dr. Carson, who had patched up her heart back in February; Dr. Eisenhower, who specialized in non-human physiology; Lady Alanus, a healer specializing in fae kind; the Derzelas Group, all renowned healers; and Dr. Quinn, a friend of Dr. Carson’s who was visiting from off-world. They had examined and scanned her. Tested and questioned her. They took her lengthy (and complicated) medical history and charted her energy and unblocked her chakras.

And they had all come to the same conclusion: her heart was failing. The scarring and decay from the iron was spreading. Slower than the doctor on Perihelion predicted, but still spreading. Still increasing.

Still killing her.

“Will you at least agree to go speak to Lady Eva? Bring all your files to her? Let her look at them. Perhaps…” He didn’t know what else to say. Perhaps Eva knew how to work miracles.

Desperate. He was so very desperate.

Didn’t he know that she had already given up?

Jewell smiled. “Of course I will go see Eva. After the holiday.”
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 27, 2017 5:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

November 23, 2017

“Pass the peas down to Aristolochia. Her plate is looking far too clean.”

“Oh no, I swear I couldn’t eat another bite!”

“You must take more wine, Lord Arnolf. It is simply divine.”

“Maybe just a little.”

“Another slice of breast for you, Welwitschia?”

“Mmm I really shouldn’t but… oh well, why not? It is a holiday after all!”

The brùnaidh dashed around the table, fulfilling Belladonna’s every command and suggestion. They served their queen with efficiency. Silently too. Of course, that was more because their tongues had been removed (naturally, she had done the work herself) and the stubs left behind had been capped with a piece of cold iron.

Their life expectancy was greatly reduced as a result, which was rather inconvenient because good help could be so hard to find! But she also couldn’t have her favorite servants spreading her secrets, could she? No, that would not be tolerated.

“Hmm hm hm now what would I like more of? Oh yes, I know. Carve a little more off the inner thigh for me. Nice and thin now. I like my meat lean.” When the brùnaidh slid the meat off the knife and onto her plate, Belladonna cut off a small piece and took a bite. “Mmm so tender. She really is absolutely delicious, isn't she?” She looked fondly upon the roasted body at the center of her Thanksgiving feast. The young woman really hadn’t been much fun to hunt. Her pair of coin-sìth had gotten to her first, unfortunately. Almost tore her to pieces. Still, it was a lovely way to spend a holiday and the meal was scrumptious. “Nothing compares to fresh meat. It just melts right in your mouth.”
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PostPosted: Mon Nov 27, 2017 9:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

November 27, 2017

“Morning.”

Great morning,” he replied. He tugged her as close as their positions would allow, sighing contentedly. “Good wasn’t a strong enough word. Perfect would include coffee, but there’s no way in hell I’m lettin’ you outta this bed again.” Cane’s eyes slid shut, but not for long.

“Excellent morning,” Jewell agreed wholeheartedly as they became further entwined, her leg wrapping around his and her lips planting a line of feather light kisses along his neck.

The Cajun’s head tipped a little to one side to give her better access, a sleepy smile spreading across his face. “You keep that up, we’re liable ta do somethin’ that’ll have us passed out til noon from exhaustion.” It didn’t sound like he objected…

Her laughter was light, lilting. “Oh handsome, I think you might have worn me out enough last night unfortunately.” There was a note of real regret in her voice as there was nothing else she’d rather do with her morning. It was a terrible segue, and she didn’t really want to talk about it, not when it was so nice right here, right now, in his arms, but… “That’s actually kind of what I wanted to talk to you about.”

“You wanna talk about my wearin’ you out?” he asked, sounding both skeptical and amused all at once.

“Nooo,” she laughed, dropping her head so her forehead pressed against his clavicle. “That would be much better,” she admitted, her voice muffled against him. “Much more fun.” It took her a moment to order her thoughts and look back up at him, smile more forced. “I’m sick, Canaan.”

The Cajun did not immediately respond. Though his smile waned, it did not entirely disappear. His hand left her hair to stroke the side of her face, tracing the apple of her cheek, the sharp line of her jaw, the plump curve of her lower lip. Cane swallowed audibly while bringing his hand to a final rest atop the gentle swell of her hip.

There was something about the tenderness of his touch that made her eyes suddenly swim with tears. Real affection had been missing from her life for so long that it easily undid her now. “I… I should have told you before. You know, before this.” She gestured to the small space between them before her hand fell back to his chest, nervously tracing the litany of scars there on his skin. “But I didn’t know… I hoped.” Halting and hesitating, she took a shuddering breath before striking for levity and missing terribly, “Turns out I can’t survive iron to the heart forever.”

Cane was a smart man. He put things together fairly quickly: the months of pill popping, the breathlessness, the sharp edge of paranoia he so often witnessed. What was left of his smile was erased. The muffled clack of his tongue ring against his molars was the only tell that hinted at the depth of his distress. After his moment of realization, he cleared his throat and asked, “What happened?”

She suddenly found his facial hair of utmost interest. “When those Temple people had my Name last year, I asked Kalamere to stop me if they used it.” He hadn’t heard this particular story because she didn’t like telling it, but it didn’t really matter now. There was no reason to hold back the details. Not from him. Her voice was quiet, flat, as she rattled the details off as if they were just cold, hard facts. As if it had all happened to someone else. “They did, so he did. He was able to get close to me because of how I feel…” now she paused, correcting herself quickly, “felt. How I felt about him. So I got a Valentine’s Day gift: an iron shiv right to the heart as he kissed me on the forehead.” Her hand slid off his chest, taking his and guiding it to the spot beneath her ribs where there was a very small scar where Kal had stabbed her. “He brought me to the hospital after. Then they patched me up and sent me on my way.”

“Sent you on your way,” Cane echoed tonelessly.

“Yeah.” It was funny how much that still hurt. She could actually feel the old panic constricting her heart and forced herself to take a deep breath, holding it for a moment before continuing on. “Kal waited just to make sure I was alive, and then the doctors didn’t know what kind of long-term damage there would be.” She shrugged as if it was nothing. As if it didn’t mean her entire life. “Apparently a lot.”

“That ****er stabbed you?” Sorry. He’s still a little hung up on that. Might have something to do with the way he feels about Jewell. But Cane knew this wasn’t constructive, and it probably wasn’t something she wanted to discuss in detail, so he grit his teeth and apologized. “Sorry. I--” Almost apologized. The temperature of his skin rose by several degrees. He closed his eyes and exhaled sharply. His anger wasn’t what she needed from him, not now.

It was validating though. Gratifying. Still, the automatic, minimizing reply came so easily to her lips, “It’s okay. It--” the words stuck in her throat and her breath hitched.

“It’s not okay,” Canaan interrupted hotly.

She paused and then shook her head. “No. No it’s not.”

“I hate that word.”

She tilted her chin up and kissed his jaw where it was hidden beneath his beard. His hand twisted to hold hers tightly, sandwiched between their bare chests. “You’re right. It’s not okay. It’s probably never going to be okay. It’s awful and terrible and wrong and…” she grasped for other words that could possibly touch the betrayal, the trauma, the hurt that never seemed to go away. She fell short. “But I did ask him. I went and I asked him to kill me, made him promise. And he fulfilled that promise and I got a heart full of iron poisoning and a head full of memories I don’t want in exchange.”

Cane’s murderous expression softened, the rigidity of anger sloughing away until his forehead settled gently against hers. “Oh, douce fille. Aucun d’entre nous ne veut jamais les souvenirs.” The rush of French poured from his mouth in a whisper.

She shied away from those memories, grounding herself in him instead: his hand wrapped around hers, bodies entwined, the heat of his skin, the sound of his voice. Her exhale was partly a laugh so at odds with what they were talking about. “I don’t know what that means, as pretty as it sounds.”

Pretty words. Cane heard the echo of another man’s words in his head. Driven to the point of distraction, he had to shake his head to clear his thoughts. “None of us ever wants the memories. It takes so long to stop hurting.” That was what he’d said and more.

“No. I suppose we don’t,” she agreed quietly. She released his hand so she could wrap both her arms around him and squeeze him tightly, cheek pressed against his chest. “But I’m out of time to stop hurting.”

“Mm-mn.” The Cajun’s head shook again, rolling onto his back so she ended up resting atop his chest. He fixed the blankets so they remained tugged up around her shoulders, then tucked the white-blonde hair behind pointed ears so he could see her face. “Not yet you’re not. You’re right here with me, and I’ll hurt with you if you want.”

“I am.” She planted her elbow against the mattress, her cheek pillowed in the palm of her hand while her right hand stroked the line of his jaw hidden beneath his scruff and then brushed back the hair from his forehead. “I am here with you.” She cupped his cheek and leaned in to kiss him.

It was a hungry kiss. A needy kiss. A kiss that said ‘thank you’ better than words ever could.

Thank you for not leaving me alone.
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PostPosted: Tue Nov 28, 2017 3:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

November 28, 2017

Jewell followed the nurse as she lead her to Eva's office even though she knew where it was. Apprehension had her fiddling with the end of her scarf. She had been to a lot of doctors in the last few weeks, but it had been over a year since she had been here. At least she wasn't bleeding profusely this time, and she didn't have a bolt of iron through her shoulder.

No, just iron in her heart.

The nurse knocked on the office door and opened it, allowing Jewell to pass her with a nod of thanks and enter, reserving her smile for her friend. "Hey."

Eva rose from where she had been sitting behind the desk. She was dressed casually in black pants and a dark top, but she wore her white doctor's coat over it---a reminder of the professional setting, despite the fact that she stepped towards Jewell to offer a kiss to her cheek. "Hey." She smiled. "Good to see you."

She traded her in a kiss to her cheek before taking the seat reserved for patients. "Good to see you too. Did you have a nice holiday with your family?"

"Yes, thank you." There was a bit more light in her eyes as she nodded. With the door shut, Eva retreated to her side of the desk and settled in. "You did something with the team?" She might be watching episodes on her vidstream.

She smirked, "Yeah.. something all right. We just kind of hung out. I got turkeys for everyone to pretend hunt in the backyard, but we ended up eating one." Jewell shook her head, smiling fondly, "They're something else. Miss having you on my team though."

Eva smiled. If they had more time together, she would have been more honest. Instead, she just deflected. "Next year." She swiveled slightly and tapped on her pad. On the large flat screen on her desk, Jewell's records popped up. Other than being obviously her records, it was impossible to tell what it all meant. Eva glanced at it before looking back at Jewell. Drawing a pad of paper near her. "I've had a chance to look over your records. But why don't you tell me what brings you here?"

Her smile was more grimace as the conversation shifted, but this was why she had come here. They could have drinks and talk about her bad life decisions and the Real World house another time. She sat towards the edge of her seat, as if ready to run, and resumed playing with the end of her scarf. "Right. Well, I guess you saw that the iron... it's pretty much destroying my heart." There was no need to sugar coat it since Eva had seen her records. All of them. "They seem to think it's going to be fatal, and I was just wondering... I thought maybe you'd see it different or something."

She fell silent a moment. Then she leaned forward a little. "Your iron levels are high, yes." She reached up and turned the screen towards Jewell, then tapped to a 3D imaging of her heart. It was black and white, with white numbering along the bottom and right side of the image. And there were dark spots on the image of her heart. "And yes, there are signs of stress and damage, here... and here." Showing her on the image.

She chewed at the inside of her cheek, brow furrowed as she leaned this way and then that to examine her own heart. It was a strange experience, seeing it outside of her body like that. She slouched back on the chair. "When I first was hurt, they weren't sure what would happen. Weren't sure if there would be lasting damage. Now they say that the iron basically killed whatever it touched, even though it wasn't a lot, and it's spreading like a cancer does." Jewell stated it calmly, matter-of-factly, eyes on Eva and not her heart.

She knew how disconcerting the image could be, but she thought it was important for patients to see it. Now, she swiveled the screen back so it was more difficult for Jewell to see, and she flipped to a different page of the records, one that was all text. "There's a condition that afflicts some humans, where their bodies cannot process iron. Hemochromatosis. Has anyone ever spoken with you about that?"

She shook her head. "I don't think... I mean, I've never heard that term? But most fae are allergic to iron. It burns us. Like, I can get an actual burn on my skin from it if someone touches me with it? And just being around too much of it makes me feel ill. It's why..." she was twisting the frayed edge of the scar tightly now, "that's why it worked so well in stopping me last year. That's why Kal used it."

Eva nodded, "Yes, I know." She didn't seem at all offended by Jewell's attempt to inform her. But it wasn't necessary. "Looking at your test results... comparing your condition immediately after you were first hurt to your recent labs... I can't disagree with the other doctors." Like Jewell, she spoke calmly and without alarm. "Iron is building up around your heart, and the muscle tissue of your heart is slowly and dangerously dying." There was a yet to be spoken 'but' there, however.

She took a deep breath in through her nose, almost like bracing herself for a plunge into cold water. "So that's it then?" Jewell was trying to draw out that so important 'but'. She had told Ishmerai the fight was over. She told Cane she was out of time.

But she wanted to be wrong.

"No, Jewell, that's not it." Her brow furrowed. "Did your doctors talk to you about the possibility of a transplant?"

"The one..." she rubbed the heel of her hand into her temple. "Mother of Nature, I don't even remember which. They're all blurring together. One did mention it, though. There seemed to be a lot of complications involved? And possibly a problem with even obtaining a suitable heart. It'd require surgery, right?"

Eva nodded. "Yes. And it would require a pretty dramatic life change." She paused to give Jewell a moment.

"Life change..." she repeated, a sinking feeling slowly weighing her down. "Like what?"

"There's a pretty heavy-duty anti-rejection medication regime. Somewhere between eight and twelve pills a day. Another long recovery period with limited physical exertion. Low-fat, low-sodium diet. Absolutely no recreational drugs. Limited drinking." She had a feeling that last one might be difficult.

Jewell cringed. "I mean, I already can't drink much right now, but that would be for life? Which they also said might not be that long anyway, right? I could go through the whole thing and then still not live long?"

"Rejection is possible." Eva nodded. "A transplant does typically shorten the recipient's life span. But there are things that can be done to try to keep your new heart as healthy as possible for as long as possible."

She had leaned forward again at some point, eager to hear the hope Eva was holding out to her, but she fell back in the chair now. "Well... ***. I mean, it sounds good, maybe? I don't know. No offense, Eva, but sometimes this 'modern'," she even made air quotes, "medicine stuff just sounds crazy."

"Mm. Well." Then brace yourself. "I asked you about hemochromatosis earlier because for humans there is no cure for the condition, but I know a cybernetics researcher in Star's End who has developed a nanobot that has been showing some promise in processing the iron in humans with the condition." She watched her still. "I consulted with him, and we both think there's a possibility that his protocol might be able to help you."

Her eyebrows shot up, her sudden smile somewhere between incredulous and 'Are you joking?' "It's a tiny robot?"

"It is, yes." She didn't smile. This was such a small hope, she didn't want to give Jewell the mistaken sense that this was about to save her. "What it does is essentially surround and remove iron from your system. For you, it might stop its negative effects." Eva shifted and leaned forward. "There are several things to keep in mind if you consider something like this."

"It won't reverse the damage already done to my heart, right?" She nodded slowly, thinking she had the gist of it. "Or maybe not even stop the dead tissue from spreading?" Her fidgeting with the scarf had become more idle as she found something somewhere over Eva's right shoulder to stare at, trying to process all of this. "What else?"

"That's right. It won't reverse the damage. And we don't know whether it will stop the spread. We don't know whether it will work at all." She had to be honest. "The only way I would recommend this for you is if you do it while you pursue, actively," putting stress on that last word, "a possible transplant."

She could hear Sal in her head, “A heart, a heart. We could give her a new one.” Jewell nodded again, forcing her focus onto Eva again with a faint smile. "Thanks. I think I'm going to have to think about that though. Fast, I guess.” She hesitated before just blurting her concerns out, “It just seems like I could do all that and then, you know.. still not be okay. Or die anyway but only after having spent the last bit of my life desperately clinging to it."

Eva reached over and turned off the screen. Then she pushed aside her notepad. When she was done, she returned her full attention to Jewell, her hazel eyes fixed on her. "Jewell... you're my friend... one of my oldest. I don't want anything to happen to you. I don't want any of the things that have already happened to you to have happened at all." She paused for a moment, and drew in a breath. "But life doesn't come with guarantees. It is... it is random, and terrifying, and... and sometimes cruel. You may die." She nodded, her brow furrowed. "You could... you could spend the next three years looking for a donor and never find one. You could find a donor and reject the transplant. You could have another thirty years, and die of the flu in your bed. Or you could step out onto the sidewalk and be hit by Bobo's hot cocoa cart." She shook her head. "As your doctor, I can't make guarantees. But as a friend, I can guarantee that you won't go through this alone."

"Thanks Eva. That means a lot. You've always..." she lost her composure then, forced to take a breath that gave her a moment to fight the tears that were stinging her eyes and control the tremble in her voice. These weren’t just trite, meaningless words. She knew Eva wouldn’t let her go through this alone, and that meant more than a lot to her. It meant everything. "You've been there for me through… well, everything. And this? I just... I don't know. You know I'm a fighter, right? I don't know if I've ever given up on anything, but I'm just... I'm so tired. I'm tired of fighting. And this? It just feels like a losing battle. I don't know." She shook her head. "Maybe I won't feel that way tomorrow. Yesterday, I was with Cane and I told myself I'd do anything to fight for more moments like that. But it just feels like a decision that's too big. Like, what right do I have to even decide this for myself?"

"Jewell..." Her brow furrowed, and she shook her head. Eva pushed back from her seat and came around the desk. She took the visitor's chair beside Jewell, body angled to face her friend, and she reached for her hand. She took a hold of it gently, but firmly. "Jewell, there's no decision to be made. You need a transplant."
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PostPosted: Wed Nov 29, 2017 1:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

November 29, 2017

The atmosphere in the living room was sombre despite the bright, merry sunshine reflecting off the snow outside and pouring in through the windows. All the color seemed to have bled from her world. Even her nail polish--a chipped, neon green--looked dull. Faded. Muted.

“But there’s a way to fix this, right? I mean, you’re not really going to… you’re not going to--” Sapphire looked up from her tightly clasped hands to Ishmerai standing across from her and Jewell on the couch. Her blue eyes pleaded with him, frantic for something to hold on to, but he looked grim and serious with his arms crossed, directing her to ask that question of Jewell with a nod of his head. But when she turned to Jewell, the faerie wouldn’t look back at her. Instead, she turned her head away and gazed out the window.

Her voice took on a higher, more desperate pitch when turned beseechingly to the knight, “Merai?”

He sighed heavily, resigned to his task. “There is a way, Sapphire, but…”

She grabbed at this hope, “A way? What way?” She looked rapidly between them, but Jewell continued to stare determinedly out the window.

The knight looked to Jewell as well, but when no answer was forthcoming… “Lady Eva has strongly recommended a heart transplant, which would--”

“Like the surgery? Finding a donor and using their heart?” He nodded. “Okay, so… let’s do it!” She smiled brightly, elated to have a solution. To have something to work with. It relieved a bit of the heavy grief that had been crushing her only moments ago. It didn’t matter that neither adult shared her apparent enthusiasm, that they continued to look solemn and somber. They weren’t like her. She was a tinkerer. A fixer. And Eva had given them a plan to fix this solution, so it was simply a matter of putting it into action and getting to work.

“Come on, let’s do it right now.” She jumped up off the couch, taking charge since they both seemed too overwhelmed to do so. “I’ll call Eva. We can set it all up.” Neither of them moved. A cold doubt crept over her; a nervous anxiety that fluttered in her stomach. “What are you waiting for? Why aren’t we out finding a donor? Did you already find one? If you did, we should be setting up appointments. I can stay as long as you need me to and finish my schoolwork from here! How soon can Eva--”

“No.” Jewell finally spoke up, looking at Sapphire. “I’m sorry, Sapphire, but I’m not doing the surgery. I won’t.”

“What?” She flinched back. “What do you mean you won’t? You have to!”

“Sapphire--” she said softly, reaching for her hand.

“No!” she pulled back even further. She did not want to hear whatever Jewell was about to say to her in that tone her mother had used when her dog Moxie was hit by a car the summer she was eleven. “Don’t touch me!” Her arms wrapped protectively around herself. “How could you even think about not doing this? This… this is your life. You have to do it!”

“It’s not simple, Sapphire. There are a lot of things to consider--”

“Those things don’t matter!” She shouted over her. If she said it loud enough, she could make it true.

“They do,” Jewell insisted firmly but kindly. Patiently. “They matter a lot. To me. We would have to find a suitable heart, the procedure is risky, it might not even take, and my life would be vastly different after. And I’m just not sure that I’m interested in--”

“I DON’T CARE!” she cried. “You have no right to decide you won’t do this. You have to. You have to do it!” She fumbled in her pocket, trying to pull out her comm device. “I’m calling Eva right now. We’re going to do this.” Her hands were shaking so badly that she couldn’t scroll through to find Eva’s number, if she even had it. If she didn’t have it, she’d get it. It didn’t matter. She kept trying, jabbing at the screen blindly, tears obstructing her vision now. “You have to… you have to. You just can’t--”

Her phone thunked onto the carpeted floor when Jewell wrapped her arms around her.

“You have to do it,” she sobbed. “You… you just can’t!”

“I know, love.” Jewell held her tight, stroking her blue hair as she buried her face against her shoulder. “I know.”
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PostPosted: Thu Nov 30, 2017 11:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

November 30, 2017

“Stop.”

“No you stop,” Sapphire shot back in annoyance, shoving her shoulder. Jewell fell sideways against the pillows piled on the end of the couch, grabbed one, and smacked the younger woman with it.

Ishmerai sighed, “Both of you need to stop.”

“She started it,” Jewell complained. The knight threw his arms up and walked towards the windows, staring out at the grounds of the sanatorium. Jewell took this as permission to proceed and tried to smother Sapphire, who was attempting to grab the pillow from her.

“I wouldn’t...oomph, stop it already!” Sapphire managed to tear the pillow from her hands, her face red and her hair a mess. “I wouldn’t have needed to start anything if you would just be reasonable.”

“I am being reasonable,” she huffed, crossing her arms and angling herself away from Sapphire.

“No you’re not. You’re fighting in IFL. Drinking. Running around having crazy sex with--mmph!” Jewell had pounced, shoving a different pillow into her face.

“You need to stop babying me!”

Within an hour of arriving at the sanatorium, Sapphire had taken prompt control of Jewell’s care, fancying herself a nurse. There was a schedule of medications tacked up in the kitchen and a pantry stocked with heart-healthy foods (“I’m going to go get more diet recommendations from Auntie Eva next week!”). She had plans to talk to Hope about requiring Jewell to continue physical therapy if she wanted to stay on the team, and last night she had sat on her, refusing to let her leave for her fight with Koy until she did some deep breathing exercises, took her medication, and promised to be careful. Jewell had endured a long lecture when Sapphire had seen her swollen knee (a result of the fight) and heard her plans to go out dancing with Koyliak soon.

And when she hadn’t finished her asparagus with lunch.

It was too much. If she only had a few more months left to live, she wanted to actually live.

“Mira, she is turning blue,” Ishmerai remarked mildly, glancing back at them.

“Oh.” She dropped the pillow and reached over, fixing Sapphire’s hair for her. “Sorry.”

She swatted her hand away. “You’re impossible to take care of, you know that?” Jewell shrugged, grinning a little. “Merai, how have you put up with this pain,” she shoved the faerie’s shoulder again, “in the butt for so many years?”

“With much endurance of spirit,” the knight replied dryly.

“Hey!”
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 02, 2017 3:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

December 2, 2017

It was just after 3 a.m. when Mallory sent a flurry of texts to Sapphire.

To Sapphire: you up?
To Sapphire: youre in town right?
To Sapphire: omw over
To Sapphire: come to dockside door
To Sapphire: i swear its important
To Sapphire: text me back

About ten minutes later, a fist started pounding from the RhyDin side of one of the enchanted doors into Jewell’s sanctuary.

Whenever the sanatorium’s Dockside portal opened, Mallory was standing right outside of it, her nose buried in an Egyptology textbook, with tomes on Celtic lore and faerie legends and medieval alchemy tucked under her arm, and her free hand balled into a fist, ready to knock again. She was in a baggy sweatshirt, yoga pants and sneakers, which did not look like nearly enough to ward off the cold. About fifty feet behind her, at the end of the Dockside alley, stood Eri and a couple of girls from the security detail next to a red Alfa Romeo. The girls were quiet, smoking and keeping an eye on their surroundings, but Eri’s gaze was fixed on the back of the single-minded witch.

To Mal: shhhhh
To Mal: i’m comin down

It took Sapphire another ten minutes to open the door though because she opened the Old Temple and New Haven ones first. She was grumbling by the time she pulled open the Dockside portal, “Need ****ing labels on these things.” She back away quickly behind the door to protect herself from the icy night air off the water that whipped right through her t-shirt and shorts. She had done nothing to tame her wild mane of blue hair. “Hey Mal,” she smiled through a yawn, “what’s--”

It was just as well that Sapphire was backing up, because Mallory was coming in, pausing only long enough to flash a reassuring smile and a thumbs up to Eri. They’d still be on the same plane; she could call for a ride home when she was done. “Is Jewell up? What about Merai?” she fired off, looking up and down the halls of the sanatorium.

Sapphire waved to Eri and company before closing the door behind Mallory, covering another yawn. “Merai probably is. Might take a bit to wake Jewell up though. She knocks herself out with all sorts of stuff these days.” She headed right down the hall for the stairs. “What’s got you all wired? You on speed or something?”

“The Feather of Truth and the weight of a mortal heart -- the death and rebirth of gods -- the Quickstone of Aldronay -- that’s what has me wired!” she said, following Sapphire closely as she walked down the hall, and catching her arm as she rounded the stairs. Her eyes were wide and wild, almost manic. “Jewell’s… sick, right? That’s why you’re in RhyDin. It’s her heart.”

Her blue eyes widened a little, suddenly very awake and very alert. “Yeah. How did you--” she stopped and shook her head. She’d find out if it was important. “Nevermind. Come on.” Sapphire put her hand on her shoulder to guide her up the first few steps, whispering urgently as they went. “They sent me a message Tuesday afternoon, asked me to come. I’ve been waiting for months now, you know? Cause she told me to stay home.” One of the girls patrolling the hall saw them on the third landing. She merely waved at the pair and continued on her way. “So I got in Wednesday morning. They sat me down and told me the whole thing.”

There was a set of double doors at the top of the stairs on the fourth floor, leading to a foyer that looked similar to the one in Jewell’s penthouse in Little Elfhame. Sapphire opened the left-hand door for Mallory, “It’s the iron, you know? The iron Kal stabbed her with on Valentine’s Day. It’s going right through her heart now.”

“I know,” Mallory said, then clarified, “Part of me knew -- my Sight knew.” She wanted to tell her everything right now, her wild gaze finally settling for a moment on Sapphire’s face in profile as they passed through the door together. She’d missed her friend since Perihelion, and the thought of how much she must be aching right now finally struck her. It stoked her resolve. I can beat this. I know I can.

She slid her hand around Sapphire’s and followed her deeper into Jewell’s inner sanctum.

Sapphire smiled aside at her friend. “You’ll have to tell me what you’ve been--oh, hello Merai!”

The knight was standing, watching them from the mouth of the hallway. “Girls.” Despite the pall that had been cast over the whole family, he smiled at them. “I heard the buzzing of your electronic device and noticed you were out of bed.”

“Merai.” The witch didn’t usually presume to use the knight’s nickname, but it was an unusual night. She shifted the odd trio of books underneath her arm and stepped forward, her hand slipping away from Sapphire’s with a single squeeze. “Did you and Jewell bring the Primordial Vitaeum with you? Is it here?”

He frowned, concerned with the fervor with which she spoke and the object she sought. “Mallory, you should not…”

Sapphire spoke up, “It’s for J, Merai. She knows.”

“I felt it,” she stressed, taking another step to hold Ishmerai’s gaze. There was a gleam in her vivid green eyes, a glimmer of the reckless passion of black magic as she held out her left hand imploringly. “When her heart cried out in pain the other night, I could feel it in my blood… I’ve Seen the weighing of her withered heart in my dreams… and I’ve heard the ritual that could be her salvation.” Her open hand closed into a fist. “We can give her a new heart.

“But mama already said she doesn’t want to do a transplant,” Sapphire explained, miserable again. It seemed that Jewell might come around, but she was afraid by the time she did? It would be too late. “We’ve been fighting about it all week.”

“What does this have to do with the Primordial Vitaeum, Mallory?” The knight looked very grave. He had not missed that light in the witch’s eyes, and feared the path her passion was taking her along.

“The Rite of First Equinox,” Mallory hissed. “We find a powerful fae heart -- archfae, royalty, one of the small gods -- we bind it through ritual, and let it pass through an artifact and become one with Jewell’s flesh. I’ve only seen pieces of the Rite, but I know the Primordial Vitaeum holds the full text -- and clues to an artifact we can use. If not the Quickstone of Aldronay, maybe the Eye of the Silversmith or one of the Celestial Stars, I don’t know…”

She shook her head, dismissing the distracting thoughts. “It doesn’t matter. What matters is that we can stop this.”

Ishmerai and Sapphire shared a quick look between them.

“A ritual is different from surgery…” Sapphire offered, trying not to sound too hopeful.

The knight still looked grim, but the worry lines around his eyes and mouth eased a little. “I think I should go wake Jewell.”

*****

“Wait…” Jewell rubbed her pointer and middle finger roughly into her temple, massaging it against a budding headache, “explain it again. We don’t have to do some crazy surgery after we find a suitable heart?”

They were sitting around the kitchen table now with steaming mugs of very strong coffee in front of them. Except Jewell. “No caffeine for you,” Sapphire had ordered, setting down a cup of herbal tea instead.

The coffee had a sobering effect on Mallory, and she seemed a little more herself as she set the mug down -- or at least she was not displaying her darker impulses so openly now. “No,” she said, and drummed her left ring finger on the cover of the ancient green tome sitting on the table in front of her. “Instead we do things the old-fashioned way -- the very old-fashioned way. Legends hold that the old gods of the forest did not always have the cunning illusions and mutable flesh the fae are known for,” her gaze ticking from Ishmerai, to Sapphire, back to Jewell. “The illusions… that doesn’t matter. What we’re after is the flesh.

“The old gods deceived and betrayed each other like they still do, but they used magic like the Rite of First Equinox to murder each other and steal each other’s essence. They could do it the same way you shape the water, or I conjure fire and shadow, but none of us have that kind of power… so we need a piece of the old gods, or something they valued dearly, something they touched, to complete the ritual -- ”

Mallory drew her hand away from the ancient book, a subtle whisper from within its pages drawing her gaze with the temptation of forbidden knowledge… but she looked away, opening her hands to the others at the table. “ -- and replace your heart with that of a fae equal to your power. Behaving as it always did within their own body, yet also as if you had always had that heart.”

“This is very dark magic, Mallory.”

“Who cares?” Sapphire snapped at the knight. “It’s what we were looking for, isn’t it? Better than the surgery Auntie Eva suggested with all the drugs and limitations. Mallory says it will behave like her own. That’s what you want, isn’t it mama?” She looked at Jewell, who just nodded.

“It may be better, but…” Ishmerai conceded unwillingly, ready to issue a warning.

Sapphire carried right on over him. “And there’s probably no chance of her body rejecting the heart, right? No weird side-effects. None of that. What more could we ask for?”

Jewell didn’t speak up right away. Her thoughts were racing, fighting furiously against the mix of drugs she had taken to help her sleep in an attempt to understand, to see the matter clearly, and make a good decision because Ishmerai was right: this was very dark magic Mallory was talking about. Dangerous magic.

The knight and the blue haired wonder were still arguing when Jewell finally addressed Mallory, “We would need a heart of equal value, you said. Of a faerie equal to me?” Her smile was wry and a bit regretful, “Not to ruin this plan or speak too highly of myself, but that will not be easy to find or obtain. Where do you propose that we find such a heart?”

All the wind went out of Sapphire’s sails at that and she sunk back in her seat, quiet.

“I’m not too keen on killing another family member. It’s already gotten me into quite a bit of trouble with the High Court in the past, you know.” And then some. To kill a sidhe equal to herself was costly. The death of Conventina had stripped her of her magic. To become capable of taking Muirenn down, she had sacrificed her name. Jewell had very little left to sacrifice. Nothing she was willing to give up. And who was there left to kill anyway?

Mallory had taken up her coffee again, trying very much to focus on its heat and on the substance of everyone’s arguments and not the way the old book seemed to look at her. She hummed thoughtfully as she took a slow sip. She did not have intimate knowledge of Jewell’s history, but knew enough to gather that trouble with the High Court had kicked everything off with the Temple and the CPA.

She shook her head faintly at Jewell, a silent admission of I don’t know, and fell deeper into her own thoughts as the silence weighed heavily around them. There were so many pieces to this puzzle: the jackal, and the feather; Iustitia with her sword; the crumbling heart; the intricate rivulets of blood; the witch’s curse; the broken mirror; the ivy throne…

Jewell swirled the spoon around in her tea, mixing in the liberal amount of honey Sapphire had added. Lyre could work, but she wasn’t so sure a man’s heart was equal to her own. No, she was sure that it wasn’t. That of a fae equal to your power. She would not touch Lorelei. Lorelei was probably more powerful than her anyway. She ran her hand through her messy, white hair, frustrated. Who was her equal? She turned to look at Ishmerai, the question on her lips, and saw Mallory staring intently at her face when it clicked. Oh.

“Belladonna,” the witch whispered, appearing surprised at herself, and looked around at them. “Will anyone give two ****s if we murder her?”

“My own heart,” Jewell said softly, tempering the sudden excitement that had swelled up inside of her. “Of course.” She looked at Ishmerai eagerly.

“It could work,” he admitted.

“It could.”

“It will not be easy to best her a second time,” he warned.

“No,” Jewell agreed, “she is stronger now.” Her heart constricted painfully when she realized what she must ask of him: “And we will need the relic too.”

Ishmerai’s hand found hers beneath the table and squeezed it. No other words were needed between them.

Meanwhile, the conversation between the two younger girls on the other side of the table had carried on without them, with Sapphire hugging Mallory tightly and proclaiming her the best and brightest ever. Now she leapt up out of her seat, intent on making a giant stack of pancakes in celebration, heedless of the details being worked out between the adults. “All right! Let’s kill that bitch and steal her heart!”


((Adapted from live play!))
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 09, 2017 1:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

December 2, 2017

There were so many things to discuss and consider after Mallory’s morning visit, including a trip into Faerie to find the relic (if it existed) that could save her life, but Jewell’s thoughts were oddly on Michiru and Haruka. “Do you think they knew when they sent her here to me?”

“I have been wondering the same thing. To deliver you the perfect donor, albeit several years too soon…”

“I suppose I will have to ask them if I survive this.”

“You will survive, Mira.”

She looked out onto the grounds of the sanatorium, not feeling so sure. “We’ll see.”
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 12, 2017 1:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

December 12, 2017

“It is one of your more terrible ideas. Truly.”

“Nnh.” She murmured dismissively, eyes wandering over the cream colored card again. Jewell tilted it this way and that, trying to catch the light and determine once and for all if the ink was a deep red. Like blood.

“You are already caught up with one kindred…”

He stopped, growling quietly in frustration at that sly, pleased smile that she hadn’t bothered to suppress at his reference to Sinjin. Caught up with was one way to put it. Entangled was probably better. Yes, entangled was the perfect word. She wondered idly when she could see him again.


“Mira!” the knight snapped.

“Hmm?” she looked at him with dreamy grey eyes.

He picked right back up with his arguments. “As I was saying, you are already involved with one. Leave the Night Court alone. Leave them out of this. They are not your allies in this fight. They have made that very clear, expanding their feeding grounds, attacking our people. You know they have reached some agreement with Belladonna.”

The Night Court’s sirelings had paid little heed to the grounds and boundaries established back when Jewell first came to power, regularly venturing into what was known amongst the immortal crowd as fae territory to prey upon mortals there. Now, with Belladonna’s motley band of killers openly indulging their most violent impulses, the fledgling vampires seemed to have abandoned any pretense of restraint. An attack on a loyal sidhe family in Little Elfhame had left the entire clan dead, and two of their own as well, glutted on the anathemous blood of the fae.

In spite of this, Jewell tilted the card back and forth again, lost in a daydream. “Mira,” he pleaded, “please forget Théodore Ténèbres. He will cause you nothing but trouble.”

“Oh Ishmerai,” she set the card down on her vanity and reached out, taking his hand with a sweet smile and squeezing it, a reassurance so at odds with her words, “don’t worry so much. I’m just having a little bit of fun before I die.”
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PostPosted: Thu Dec 21, 2017 1:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

December 16, 2017

Years surviving and hustling on RhyDin’s streets, stealing most of her meals until only last Christmas, made Mallory rather adept at blending in and going unnoticed. She knew how to dress ratty but not too ratty, enough to be ignored without inviting people to wonder if her poverty would be a problem for them. She went without makeup and picked clothes that were frayed and faded without being filthy, and wore things like hooded jackets and unadorned hats that obscured her features without raising red flags by concealing them completely.

But Faerie posed a difficult challenge, because she was mortal and they were not. No matter how plain or unflattering her clothes, no matter how dull her demeanor, there were essential ways in which she could not help but stand out. The fae were known for being perceptive, too -- she couldn’t imagine that her own magical gifts would go entirely unnoticed, no matter how subtle her trinkets.

Still, she did her best. When she found Ishmerai in the sanatorium’s snowy garden, she was dressed as plainly as she could: black surplus jacket over a gray hooded sweatshirt and a black knit cap for her hair. Her jeans were old, faded but not patched, loose around her hips but not too baggy; her combat boots were black, a little muddy, and tagless. She’d even swapped out her backpack for something plainer, dark blue without a brand tag or any of the patches or battle scars that gave the other one its character. If she was carrying any of her usual trinkets, they’d been tucked out sight.

And the only touch of color on her face was the redness from the biting chill in the air. “Hey,” she said to the knight through a little puff of cold breath.

Ishmerai turned from surveying the grounds, watching the sun come up over the valley below. “Mallory,” he greeted her with a faint smile. They evoked the spirit of RhyDin in their contrast. She was dressed simply while he wore well-cared for, albeit plain, light, leather armor. The scales lingering along the sides of his face were brilliantly iridescent, as if shone to perfection in preparation of this trip.

The witch quirked a smile back at him as she stepped closer, and followed his gaze to the fiery glow spilling over the horizon into the valley. She wondered vaguely what the sun would look like in Faerie -- and if it would be anything like her trip to the well, before Lanuathen found her spirit…

“So, how are we doing this thing?”

“Over here,” he nodded further into the garden before leading her away from the magnificent sunrise and along the snow obscured path, marked only by the passing of footsteps. At the end, there stood an old stone arch, overgrown with ivy. At some point, an out building clearly stood here. Now the arch was the only thing left visible in the snow.

He stopped in front of it, “Fortunately, the situation is relatively peaceful with Jewell’s family at the moment. This will bring us right onto the Ta-Neer grounds, so we will not need to travel on the other side.” Merai glanced down to the young mortal he was unwillingly taking into Faerie with him. “I will do my best to keep you safe, but please do not wander off on your own. Also, refrain from eating or drinking anything I have not examined first. You are under Jewell’s protection in a way, as a guest in her family home, and guest rights therefore extend to you. This does not mean they will not try to get you to break it of your own fruition.” He likely did not need to remind her of any of this, but she was essentially his charge once they crossed the Veil. He would not have harm come to her.

“And remember,” he turned to look back at the portal. “They may be Seelie fae, but they are still fae.”

Mallory listened attentively to his words, though her gaze was pulled to the archway itself, her connection to the Veil drawn to this portal like iron to a magnet… “Would it be offensive if I didn’t say anything at all?” she asked as she shifted her backpack around, and unzipped it to show him its contents. “And I brought a big bottle of water… some granola bars… and licorice from Panacea. Let me know if you want any.”

The edges of her teasing smile softened as she added a gentle reassurance: “I’ll be careful. And I’ll follow your lead. Closely.”

He nodded with approval at the food, but did not take her up on the offer. Yet. “I would advise you against not speaking, but to do so succinctly and graciously when you do.” He paused. “And do not be afraid to, as they say, ‘lay it on thick.’”

He offered her his arm, “Shall we?”

The witch’s lips thinned as she considered the archway, and the prospect of keeping her words both concise and over-the-top. She remembered how careful her words had been in the Feygarten at Beltane, and how much higher the stakes were now… “Yeah,” she murmured, looping an arm through his and following him into the threshold.

* * * * *

They left winter behind in RhyDin and emerged in spring in one of the many gardens of Lorelei Ta-Neer. Behind them was a stone arch similar to the one in the garden of the sanatorium, but here it appeared to lead into a large corridor. Ishmerai glanced around to orient himself before touching Mallory’s arm and nodding, “This way.”

Mallory struggled to keep her gaze from wandering across the sky and their surroundings. Even without looking, she could feel the change in the air, as the electric thrill she associated with magic permeated every inch of this place.

Ishmerai led them through a verdant, semi-wild landscape marked by paths here and there, lush with ferns and grasses, copses made for lazing under on warm days, and short stretches of lawns and flowers meant to be admired.

It seemed more park than garden, set in a possibly endless courtyard amidst the Ta-Neer estate. Archways edged parts of the perimeter, leading off into corridors and hallways, while several rooms seemed to spill right out onto the greenery. Despite the existence of the bustling seat of the Ta-Neer family right beyond those edges, the garden was quiet. Empty. There was not a minstrel or musician to be seen, no courtiers vying for favor, or even the hint of a servant. “Our hostess wishes to meet with us privately for a moment,” Ishmerai explained, and Mallory nodded mutely as she fell in behind him.

They found Lorelei Ta-Neer near the sweeping branches of a willow tree that made its home along a small brook that cut through the garden. She sat upon a rustic bench, head tilted upwards and eyes closed as if listening to something: the breeze singing through the willow leaves. Crossing the bridge their path followed, simply made of branches thatched together, Ishmerai stepped across the grass, coming forward to kneel before her while the witch hung a respectful distance back. She seemed to know they were there, opening her eyes and smiling at the knight. “Ishmerai, it seems an age.” She offered him her hand, which he pressed a kiss to before standing. “You are well, I hope? I have often worried about you since you left us so abruptly after your injuries.”

The similarities to Jewell were striking--the shape of her face, the petite frame, the thick hair (black not blue) that fell over her slender shoulder in loose curls--but that was where they ended. Her green eyes were soft and kind. There was nothing of artifice or cunning in her expression. No hidden wickedness in her smile. Just a natural sweetness that had not always served her well in the politics of Faerie.

He smiled, “I am as well as to be expected.”

“And Jewell? I see she did not come with you as I hoped.”

Ishmerai shook her head, “It is the iron. She dare not come. They would smell it on her.”

“My heart grieves me to hear it.” Perhaps it was her glamour, but when Lorelei said that, all listening felt she truly meant it. “She has sent me a friend instead?”

“Yes. Lady Ta-Neer, may I present Mallory St. Martin?” He stepped aside, gesturing to the young woman who approached as soon as she was introduced.

“Mallory, well met and welcome.” Lorelei offered her hand, apparently intent on shaking the witch’s. “I hope you find your time within my walls to your liking.” When she took Mallory’s hand, she studied her face. “Such interesting friends my dear cousin makes. A blood witch, yes? A fitting companion for Jewell in many ways.”

Glamour was subtle magic, and Mallory found herself less skeptical of her motive and sincerity than she knew she should have been. How easy it would have been to trust this woman and tell her of her cares, as she clasped her hand and looked into her eyes… Concise, she told herself, reminded by Lorelei’s speculative remark. “Thank you for the welcome. Your gardens are very beautiful,” she replied with a slight dip of her head. When Lorelei released her hand and moved her gaze to the knight, Mallory took a half-step back to allow them to lead the conversation once more.

“So you would like to use the archives, Ishmerai?” He nodded. “If I was a different woman, I would have had all the resources that could assist Jewell promptly removed before allowing you access. Alas, for better or worse I am as unlike my sister as the sun and the moon. She was unceasing in her attempts to bring about our cousin’s downfall. I am not. I will not doom her to a painful death to secure my own seat. The archives are yours to peruse for as long as you need them. I also give you Chika, Ishmerai. She will assist you however possible.”

He bowed to Lorelei, “You are, as always, kind and generous to the superlative degree, Lady Ta-Neer.”

The sweet, dignified Lady Ta-Neer blushed like a young girl, laughing. “And you are always so gallant, Ishmerai. Perhaps one day I will succeed in stealing you away from my cousin.” He merely inclined his head as acknowledgement to the comment, and Lorelei turned her attention back to Mallory. “Do enjoy my archives, Mallory.”
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“****, that’s a lot of books.” Thankfully Mallory saved her less eloquent compliments for when she was not in Lady Ta-Neer’s presence, with only Ishmerai and Chika to hear her as she dropped her backpack into a chair and stepped out into a wide passage between towering shelves. Her eyes were wide for only a few breathless moments, before they narrowed on details, attempting to divine some semblance of order from the countless thousands of tomes facing her. There were titles in Sylvan, Elvish, Gaelic, Russian, and -- “This is Old Church Slavonic,” she murmured, a fingertip hovering several inches away from a faded, silver-painted spine, not quite daring to touch it. She let out a long sigh, shifting her attention to their assistant for the day, the dryad archivist, Chika. She did not know how much time would pass in RhyDin while they were gone; so the faster her research, the better.

“Chika,” she ventured distractedly, flashing the briefest of smiles to the dryad as she crossed to her backpack, sliding out a few books and opening them to the index; “do you have The Four Jewels of the Tuatha Dé Danann, How The Dagda Got His Magic Staff, The Wooing of Étaín, and The Cauldron of Poesy in Irish Gaelic and Sylvan? Then… any references to three brothers, the great eastern world, and the four islands -- Murias, Falias, Gorias, and Findias -- but not The Book of the Taking of Ireland itself. Not interested in propagandistic ****ery…”

Mallory lifted her head to explain to Ishmerai, “Those texts should provide a good base for translation,” tapping her own book of selected Gaelic-to-English prose, “and a good starting point for what we’re looking for.”

“We should have all of those and a few others that I think you may like, Lady Mallory. Allow me a few minutes and I shall personally pull them. And Ishmerai, perhaps you would like to use the study alcove you used last time?”

“Yes.” It was quiet. Discrete. Few would even know they were there. “That would be perfect.”

Chika nodded, “I will find you there.” She set off down into the archives, intent on her task.

The knight turned immediately to the witch. There was little time to waste. “There are a few books of lore, stories you read to children at night or around a fire, that I think might be helpful for our task that I wish to locate, Mallory.”

The witch raised her eyebrows at the knight as she scooped up her backpack from the chair, intent on setting up in the alcove. “You think that’s worth our while?”

“Indeed. There are always nuggets of truth within such tales.”

*****

It was more than two hours since she began reading in Ishmerai’s favorite alcove, and nearly three since they’d arrived in Faerie, that Mallory St. Martin received her first visitor.

Their arrival was subtle at first, a creeping coolness in the air that had her zipping up her hoodie without thinking. She bent her head to the page, raising her shoulders to ward off the uncomfortable chill as she scratched a few notes into her journal. It seemed that the Dagda had likely never met the three brothers as he claimed, and instead been given the staff as a prize for loyalty, long after the death of its three-faced former owner…

Mallory had read two conflicting tales about where this forgotten old goddess had gotten such a relic, and was just starting a third about how she had acquired her second and third faces, when the witch was struck by a pang of yearning thirst from an unseen -- but distinctly magical -- source. She dropped her pencil and turned to search for the culprit.

Ishmerai was gone, perusing the shelves on another floor, something about a narcissistic godling who had drowned in a swamp blindly following a color-changing star in the twilight sky; but she sensed the presence of another fae, helped in no small part by the warm, rich smell of the cups of espresso he clutched in either hand.

“Mmm. I heard there was a mortal amongst us today.” Thin, soft lips curved in a pleased smile as an emerald-haired beauty emerged from an illusory shimmer in the air. He exuded pure temptation in the scandalously low dip of his robes, the way the silk melted over his finely sculpted features, and the delicate draw of one crystalline cup to his mouth, humming with pleasure at the first heated sip. “My poor dear, toiling alone over these tomes for that cruel, cruel knight… Aren’t you cold? Aren’t you thirsty?” he asked, as if surprised by the way the espresso drew her gaze.

But knowing there was a trick at work loosened its hold on her mind. She shook her head slowly, though she spared him a polite smile: “Thanks… but I’m alright.”

“Tsk,” he teased her, pointing at her with one pinky extended from his drink. “It’s not nice to lie.”

Her eyes narrowed shrewdly as she turned her gaze back to her work. “It’s not nice to make people believe them, either.”

He huffed with indignation and slipped back out of her presence as quietly as he had come, but the smile he wore now was nothing if not pleased. The others at court just had to hear about this!

*****

It was close to noon, though Mallory wouldn’t have known it by peeking through the shimmering glass windows that stretched up to the ceiling of the archives: time and daylight in Faerie were strange, though she couldn’t be sure if the slow, rippling changes in the color of the sky were “real” or an illusion projected through the glass.

She finished another granola bar, dropping the plastic wrapper in a little pile with the others, and padded (barefoot) over to the other side of the alcove to where Ishmerai was studying. She leaned against the end of a bookshelf and folded her arms as she looked at him.

“The Quickstone of Aldronay and the Mad Queen’s Sceptre were both destroyed. It’s how the first free elves snatched their agelessness back from the fae…” Her gaze ticked back and forth rapidly as she worked through the anxious thoughts that had been building up over the last hour. “And the Sceptre’s the only genuine relic made from the shards of the Lorg Mór -- Shimmerspear, Orkney’s Doom, and the Lance of Stars were all invented by the Fledgling Houses, just… propaganda and other bull**** meant to scare and impress each other…” She shook her head slowly, her frown deepening.

This had been a hell of a setback.

The knight sat back, pinching the bridge of his nose. “I have not been able to confirm whether the Tale of Cordula, one of the first Faerie Queens, is based on truth or not. They say she was one of the first to gain true immortality and live forever by stealing the hearts of all seven of her sisters. But she died. Maybe she ran out of hearts? Or lost the,” he leaned forward, reading from the book on top of the pile in front of him, “Circlet of Croí. Which I also cannot discern what that even was: a crown, a pendant, something completely made up.”

“Whatever it is, our chances of finding it are… not good.” Mallory tapped her toes against the rug beneath her feet, thinking hard. “Chika can keep searching for it, just in case… and maybe you can circle back to the Celestial Stars. The Lance was a dud, but… I don’t know…” She sighed and straightened from her lean to carefully gather a precarious stack of books from the edge of his desk. “I’ll start on the changelings.”

The witch made it only a few steps away when she sighed again, and paused there, steadying the books with her chin pressed to the top-most cover. “That eliminates every named treasure we had. The Staff, the Cauldron, the Quickstone, the Sceptre, the Circlet and the Eye… and who knows if anyone actually worked the Stars.” She lifted her shoulders in a slow, helpless shrug, and plodded back to her desk.

“We’ll just have to find another relic.”

*****

Visitor #5 arrived just after four o’clock.

At least, it had been ten hours since Mallory and Ishmerai had stepped through the portal when her watch said six. The more time she spent in Faerie, the more uncertain she felt about the flow of time there, though she imagined that was by design, or at least leveraged to disorient lost and wandering mortals. What worried her more was how time passed in RhyDin. Would it be moments there before she re-emerged in the Sanatorium? days? a week?

She was imagining Eri in an empty house for a week, herself arriving only hours before the party, and the darker possibility that something could go wrong, that she could stay in Faerie too long or the time warp could fluctuate even more than expected, all the way to missing her first Christmas with her girlfriend in their new place --

-- when a long, slender finger stroked down her cheek. Her gaze snapped over to its owner, her eyes wide and defensively angry, though damp with the threat of tears from where her thoughts had been taking her until this moment.

“Do not despair, mortal,” said a silver-haired creature with enormous violet eyes, half-lidded, serene, and with narrow feline pupils. “You are in a place of beauty… where a beauty like yours belongs. Come,” she said, reaching out to curl her long, slender finger around the shell of the witch’s ear.

Mallory could hear her heart beating in her ears better than the voice of the tall, gossamer-clad fae towering over her. The unwanted contact and implicit threat of this elder being’s power over her were too familiar… but she managed to restrain the urge to sunder this fae with magic. Wrath was not an option, though that did not leave her completely without recourse.

“Ishmerai?” she called, in the direction where she had last heard the fae shuffling through the archives’ shelves. That name alone had the silver-haired fae jumping back, darting a look side to side to see if the dangerous knight had snuck up on her.

His response was a distracted, muffled grunt as he was trying to add another book to the stack in his arms, using his chin to keep from dropping them all.

“Is there room for another finger in my collection?” She looked at the hand that had touched her out of the corner of her eye. “Right index, slender, rather pale. Soft skin, but I think it’ll keep rather well.”

“There is not,” he replied through gritted teeth. Then there was a sound of dismay before the books he had been carrying all crashed to the floor.

The fae was baring her sharp, pearly teeth at the witch as she backed away, driven off by the mortal’s unexpected threats and the sound of Ishmerai so much closer than she’d expected. “So much for Eri’s souvenir,” Mallory sighed, returning her attention to her books.
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