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Addie MacKenzie
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PostPosted: Sun Jul 01, 2018 8:37 pm    Post subject: Embers Reply with quote

June 18th, 2018

A month removed from Romeo's birthday and his fiancee was already working on his birthday present. It meant frequent conversations with both her mother and her grandfather, and lots of sneaky phone calls and texts. Surely it was enough to make Ro suspicious, but she always covered it up with a smile and a laugh and sweet sugar kisses until it was nothing more than an after thought. But late Monday night, it all came to an end with dinner, something hearty and filling to go with the coy little cheshire smile she wore for the duration of their meal. Toward the end when she had had her fill, she settled her cheek on her hand and her elbow on the table, her eyes turned his way as he ate.

Something was most definitely afoot.

Under normal circumstances, Addie was terrible at keeping surprises from him for this long. Usually the beautiful musician/healer would be all but bursting at the seams to share whatever little impending triumph she had to surprise him with and it often only took some tickling or a few well placed kisses. This time was difference. The big blonde man had known something was up but no amount of torture, playful or sweet, had been able to coax the truth from her. Eventually, he had left it fade to the back of his mind. Instead, it was easier to get lost in her cooking and then her eyes. When the final morsel was swallowed down and he found their gazes locked, it was too easy to melt a little and get lost in that brilliant blue.

"C' mere," he told her with a slow forming smile and pushed his seat out so that there was plenty of room on his lap.

"You all done?" She asked while scooting her chair back. It was easy to clear plates with a quick step from the dining room table to the open layout of the kitchen, making a little room for her to slide into his lap without worrying about her hair, elbows, or any other part of her ending up on his plate in any way. Once she was sufficiently comfortable in a full on straddle of his lap, she scratches her fingernails lightly along his jawline and leaned in to kiss him softly on the lips. "Hi handsome."

It wasn't often that Romeo had to be patient where Adelaide was concerned but there was a significant, real longing for the woman in close proximity that gnawed at the fringes of his patience before she finally reached him. He had expected her to sit sidesaddle on his lap, a little bit of demure grace to precede a tender moment. Instead she was astride his thighs in a position most salacious, but fixing him with the most tender of kisses. She kissed him and then he kissed her again, just as sweetly but deep and much longer lasting before it finally broke. Whispering sweet things against her lips had become a luxury he would never deign give up. "You are, without a doubt, the most beautiful woman in this realm or any other."

"And you," she grinned against his lips. "Are without a doubt, biased as f*ck." A few more pecking kisses peppered his mouth and face, her lips lingering briefly against his forehead before she leaned back between him and the table. "And I love you for it. I'd do anything for you, you know that right?"

"Biased doesn't make me wrong." It was sound logic in his book. Addie leaned back and it allowed him to smooth his big hands up over her hips and ribcage, a sweet bit of affection before her question drew a crooked smile. "That was kinda my plan for the night, yanno. You doin' anything for me. But yeah, I know, babe. We've been through a lot together. We entwined you and me. Two people, one life. For as long as you'll have me."

"Wasn't what I meant, pervy pants." She tapped her index finger against the tip of his nose and let out a mirthful little laugh. It didn't last terribly long though, nipped by the press of her teeth into the left edge of her bottom lip. The subtle flush in her cheeks lingered however, tinting her tanned cheeks rosy as she brushed her fingers back through his hair. "So... I may've planned something with that in mind... but it's kind of a big deal... so I figured now abouts was a good time to see if you were cool with it... promise you won't be mad at me for it?"

"Pizza Girl," he told her earnestly, despite his lingering smile. "The only way I'm gettin' mad at you is if I'm gettin' dumped or if you're about to go galavantin' towards evil *** without me again. Anything else I'm pretty sure I can power through. Why? Because I love you and I trust you. You've got the biggest heart of anyone I know, except for maybe Fat Tony at Pasta-Rama. I mean, because lezbereal, he's a tubby f*ck."

The blush intensified only this time around her gaze dipped away from his, sheepish if not outright ashamed. While dumping him was out of the question, his latter condition wasn't out of the realm of possibility considering her track record. The fading scars on her back said that much was true. Her fingers picked and tugged at the front of his shirt , fidgeting as he spoke before her gaze flickered up toward his once more. "'M not dumping you... but I've been working with Raven and Quinten on something... for your birthday..."

"Mom," he corrected her when he leaned forward to press a gentle kiss to one corner of her mouth. "She's Mom, mo chroi. In any universe. She almost loves you more than I do, right and sure, but no one could love you like me, right? And what is this present? Is there gonna be a magic one-night Addie clone for the best but most awkward not-cheatin' threesome before I become a legit husband? Or is it a new bow? A magic quiver that holds all the arrows?"

"Nyeh." Addie threatened to lick him when he tried to correct her. Surely he knew better than to fluster her and expect anything more than immaturity out of her. Keeping her tongue to herself for the time being, she brought a more consistent lock of eyes up to stretch out the momentary pause as she debated on just how much to say. "I thought 'bout that... a couple of those." She didn't say which. "But no... it's... uh... Quinten thinks that he can send us short term... uh... back to where you're from... Earth, your Earth."

"Which one? I mean, I never thought you were that into girls and I guess it would be weird goin' down on yourself, but..." Romeo had been rambling, as he was prone to do when they were talking and he was being cheeky, but truth as it rolled off of his fiance's tongue was enough to stop him cold. For a few long moments, he couldn't do more than stare at her with something akin to disbelief written across his features. "I... Babe, that's a lot o' different Earths to search... Hell, I ain't never even met a single other person from my earth. I... how?"

Her hands came up to cup his neck, steadying him as he stared at her. Her expression was soft, tentative as if she expected him to get upset with her for even considering it as an option. "Tracing your auric signature. Quinten's a hell of a tracker... normally that'd extend to Rhydin and most Earth-ish places... so... your Earth is one of many, yeah. But you'd help narrow it down..."

"I never thought," he stammered suddenly. "Not in a million years... how much time would've passed? Will anyone know me? What if they forgot about me? Maybe I... we can do that? Could we?" As the moments dragged on, he grew less reticent and more curious. Eager.

"Quinten thinks that as long as your Earth wasn't knocked off kilter by the Change, that the time should be a one-to-one passing... it's fairly comparable to Rhydin's passing of time. So... it's been awhile but..." She stroked his cheek with a graze of her thumb. "You're impossible to forget. As long as they're there... I'm sure they'd remember you."

"I'm not mad," he told her after a few moments of consideration and a smile. "That's a gift no one else could have given me, mo chroi. Who else would want to?" His hands smoothed back down to her hips and gripped tightly pulling her forward out of her lean and to him, until they were touching foreheads again. His eyes closed but he was all to keen to inhale her familiar scent. "To get to see my family again and... to show them what I've been doin' with my life. I get to share the most important person in my world with them. If we can do it."

"You sure? I wanted to tell you before... but couldn't until I knew it was for sure..." She said softly, her tension bleeding away until she was relaxed in his lap once more. "I know how much you miss them... but... it would only be short term. We'd be tethered to an anchor here in Rhydin to make sure we get back. Quinten wouldn't agree to it without that..."

"Nono," he hushed her with a gentle press of fingertips to her lips. "Short term is enough. It's more than enough. Just to get to see my kin again, to tell them I'm doin' well, it's... well, babe, it's beyond my wildest dreams. I never would have guessed on gettin' everything I wanted in life, but you see apt to make it happen."

"It might be tempting to want to stay..." She said softly, her mouth moving against the press of his fingers. "It'll be hard to say goodbye when the time comes to go... you know that, right?"

" I know." He leaned in and kissed her jaw gently, murmuring. "I've had a decade plus to make a life here, mo chroi. And I would never give you up or make you give this up. But... to see home. To get peace of mind. I don't think I could be given a better gift. Not ever."

"Okay..." She said with a little nod, slipping her arms around his neck to pull him against her. Sitting higher than he, it put his head against her chest and her fingers up in his hair. "I thought that maybe it might give you some closure. We're gonna be starting a new chapter in both our lives... if I can give you some of that peace? Whatever it took, I'd do it."

"Mo chroi, you are my peace." Tipping his head to one side, he lifted his chin to place gentle, chaste kisses against her throat. "But I love you all the more for wantin' to do this. God, I bet mama's gonna love you." He smiled against her skin. "You might not have to worry about me, she might wanna keep you."

"I know... and you're mine. But I know what it's like to think you can't go home. Where I came from... I can't go back. Quinten tried to see and we got... nothin'. Coulda maybe tried for Rhydin-side, but I've got nobody there and Nosgoth's gone. So when he said he could do the same for you... I jumped on it." She shrugged a little, wrapping him up fully. "I'd love to meet her. Your sisters too... the whole clan. 'M gonna be a MacKenzie after all, right?"

"The whole Clan might take come doin'," he chuckled, smearing another kiss to her skin and trying to distract her from what he though might be here own pain. There was no need to revisit her own history and put a damper on her enjoyment of his happiness. Instead he kissed her skin again and again between words. "There's hundreds. Thousands. I don't think there's enough time to meet them all. Just the ones that mean the most."

"Then the important ones." She conceded with a fond little smile and a squeeze around his broad shoulders, brushing another kiss to his forehead. The pain was minimal, she had had several years to put it behind her at this point. "We can likely manage a week... but if it proves successful and goes off without a hitch, we could try it again in the future..."

"I won't expect more than this one trip." His hands rose and sifted through her hair, drawing her face down to his for a kiss. It was gentle and it lingered for a time. "I'm gonna enjoy it, we're gonna enjoy it, and if we can do it again someday then I'll be over the moon. For now? Just what's in front o' us. I'll take you to the Grove o' the Goddess and I can show you off to her too."

"I know but... Quinten says once the Way is opened, it gets tempting to use it again because you know it's there. Sort of a reverse... better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all." She said carefully, murmuring against his lips before nuzzling her nose against his back and forth. Skimming her fingers down his chest, her mouth curved with a plush smile. "But tell me about the Grove again. I wanna see it in my head before we go."

"Some bridges just need to be crossed when you reach them. Or not." With a smile, he allowed her to redirect his focus a little to something similar but not a conundrum of conscience. His own fingers slipped over her hips and teased along the hem of her shirt, teasing beneath just a little. "It's simple in its beauty. A lush open space deep within a circle of sacred oaks, large enough for many from the Clan to attend rites and worship together. An open-aired church, a single simple altar of wood and stone, but it's so much more, mo chroi. The MacKenzies love their rituals, but they don't need pomp and circumstance. The Lady already knows your heart. All the gods do. You just need to be willin' to open it to them."

"Mmmmmmmm..." She thrummed a pleased little sound as he told her. It wasn't the first time but it might be the last if only because next time she would be able to see it for herself. The parallels between her mother's people and Ro's were amusingly profound, pieces of a puzzle that meant they fit together well. As he explained, she swayed on his lap, her eyes closed as she pictured it in her head. "It's beautiful. I'd really like it if we went there... promise me we'll go?"

"I'll take you there, mo chroi, sure and I will." His smile widened, sweet and crooked as sin. "I will introduce you to the Goddess and we can show our gratitude by doin' a rite together. Just you and me." His fingers glided up and over her bare ribs, his nails dragging right back down to her hips. A soft, nipping kiss tugged at the skin on her throat. "She needs to see the girl who's captured me heart and soul."

"Perfect, we'll go then." She beamed, wiggling on his lap. The tease of his fingers, though distracting, was more of an anchoring touch in a way that on he was capable of. Thrumming a growl, she scratched her nails along the back of his neck. "So what goes into a rite then? At least for your Clan. I know how ours go."

"They are many and varied," he told her with another nipping kiss. "For all acts of love are rituals and prayer in the eyes of the goddess. No one is expected to adhere to a format. We worship as we believe, be it the gods or goddesses of the Gaels or those of the Greeks and the Norse. The forms don't matter, only the intent."

"So..." She nudged his cheek with her nose, aiming to get him to give her his mouth for a soft but hungry kiss. This was the way they worshiped, paying revelry to one another's body, mind, and soul with each touch and kiss, unabashed in the way they loved each other. "How do you think our rite would look then?"

"Like this." Strong hand grasped her hips until the tip of his fingers digging into her flesh left marks, a surge of adrenaline forcing him to lift her up so suddenly and deposit her on the end of the dinner table. The same effort stood him up and between her thighs, one of those hands rising to get a fistful of her hair and haul her into a hard, probing kiss. He intended to show her the whole night through, starting right there on that table.
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Addie MacKenzie
Trouble Magnet
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 03, 2018 12:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

July 27th, 2018

Between Addie and Quinten, chiefly the latter, a considerable amount of preparation had gone into the arrangements that would bring the young couple to one of the many Earths on the multiverse. Romeo's Earth. The big burly blonde man had spoken to the pair of them at length about the place he had come from, a place decidedly different from the cornucopia of Earth culture and eccentricities that permeated much of Rhy'din proper. Electronics would be little better than worthless weight, any sort of internal combustion engine vehicle even more so. Firearms were just pieces of history, good for a story but utterly useless as gunpowder didn't burn hard enough, the way it was supposed to, to sustain being an even remote danger. It had been left to him to compile a list of what they might need for their journey and when the time came for them to draw up to the portal, he was the one bringing their supplies up.

A trio of horses trailed along behind Ro, led gently by a single rope tethered to three sets of rains. Two Dutch Warmbloods had been saddled for the traveling couple to ride, docile in the moment but still possessed of a spring in their step. A large Suffolk Punch horse was laden with their traveling gear, modest odds and ends for making camp, extra sets of clothes (and armor), first aid sundries, and enough food to keep them going for a week or more. The young MacKenzie himself was already dressed for their arrival, sporting simple made woolen trousers tucked into hobnail boots of supple leather and a simple linsey-woolsey shirt that was covered in part by tartan of dull orange, green, and a dark brown. His favorite bow was diagonally across his back with a full war quiver of mixed broadheads and bodkins.

It was with no lacking amount of trepidation that first Quinten and then Raven agreed to let Addie and Ro go through with this. It wasn't a day trip to somewhere tropical or a weekend jaunt to Disney World, it was a week on a world in which nothing worked as it should have, where everything had gone ass over tea kettle in the worst way. Far removed from the Change that Ro had told them so much about, his Earth was still dangerous at best, deadly at worst. But Addie was insistent, because if she couldn't ever go back to Nosgoth, she wanted at the very least for Ro to be able to see his family again. Call it guilt, but neither Quinten nor Raven could say no to that.

"Look at youuuuu, Ranger Ro." Addie wolf whistled at her fiance, much to her grandfather's dismay. Though the man like Romeo well enough, Quinten was still contending with having some version of a granddaughter old enough to be getting married sooner rather than later. He staved off a look at the young lovebirds, leaving Addie to jog over to help him in any way she could. It was a lot of supplies and several horses to wrangle all at once. For her efforts, she dressed conservatively, denim and loose fitting cotton under a leather jacket that was deceptively strong and sturdy. A belt around the swell of her hips played host to pouches and bags, and just a pair of short knife sheaths. When she made it to him, Addie leaned up on her toes to kiss the blonde on the lips before fading back with a grin. "You ready for this?"

"Not even close, mo chroi," he snorted a laugh before catching her by a jacket pocket and pulling her in close. Romeo was smiling but it was an expression limned with apprehension as the moment of their departure drew closer. "If I was a Ranger, it'd be all supple leather, forest green and black, with a little white tree and stars over my heart. And none would mistake a man as loud on foot as me for one of Lady Astrid's Dunedain, though I had a boy's dream of it once upon a time. Most kids in the Duns do. No, I look like a Clan castoff or adoptee without a kilt and a Scots bonnet but I figure the tartan will identify me well enough, sure and it will."

There was a little hitch in his voice, the slow natural bleed of the brogue a decade plus in Rhy'din had ground away through time and hardship. He held onto her by that leather pocket for a few long moments that included him throwing thoughtful glances at the portal beyond. "My folks, if they're still around, will wonder if I haven't stolen away across the Cascades all these years and brought me home a spirited filly from out in Bend country, you in all that flatterin' denim and leather. All you're missing is a right and proper cowgirl leather."

"You can still be the ranger of my heart." She said with a cheesy grin, pecking him on the mouth and smoothing his shirt out with a pass of her hands. It was a worrying motion, her way of working out the nervous energy that seemed to be welling inside of her. Not only were they going far, far away from here, but if all went according to plan, she would be meeting his family. No small deal right there. When they finally let each other go, she did so with an encouraging smile. "It's sturdy, it holds up well for travel and the jacket's enchanted, just in case. Some c'mon darlin', our chariot awaits."

It wasn't a chariot but rather a salt and peppered grandfather awaiting their canoodling to come to an end. Twined around his fingers, he held two bands of braided leather, each intricately marked and etched with Asterian runework. He held them out as the pair approached. "Right wrists. These will help you find one another if you're separated. Once they're on, grasp right hand to right hand and I'll tether you both to this spot. In one week's time, to the hour, you'll be drawn back Rhydin regardless of what you're doing. Try to be ready, lest anything be left behind. Understood?"

"Wanna go behind those trees over there a moment and help relieve me of some pressure?" Her cheesy smile was met in kind, his own crooked as sin and oft that way, but he let the quip melt away in the moment and turned his attention back to Quinten. His free hand grasped Addie's and he nodded along soberly to Quinten's words as the man explained what they needed to know for their impending journey. "I know there's no absolute guaranteed regardin' where this'll spit us out so I've tried to account for as much as I can with what I've packed on the other horse. I've even brought some trade goods, or at least things I know a great many of the oldsters from my time would covet."

Ro had cleaned out Rhy'Mart of most of their packages of socks and skivvies.

"Look after each other, I mean it." Quinten said sternly once the braided leather wristlets were tied on. As the lovers held hands, the Elder wrapped his hands around theirs. A murmured cantrip slid fluidly from his tongue, a language Addie heard seldom but Ro might pick up as having some Celtic influence upon a foundation of Greek. Addie's mother had offered prayer in a similar tongue the night she and Ro had gone to rescue Addie months prior from the Order of Orion. A warm thrum radiated from Quinten's hands, infusing the spell's influence into their beings for a set amount of time. One week. No wiggle room. When he was satisfied, he let them go and gestured toward the portal. "It should be fairly narrowed down within forty or fifty miles of the place you called Dun Juniper. Hopefully on the closer end of it, but it doesn't correlate to most Terran geography so I did my best."

Addie took a deep breath and squeezed Ro's hand one more time. "Do you want to do the honors and lead the way?"

"That'll be two or three days in the worst case if we don't much the horses too hard," Ro acknowledged the information with a tight nod. "Less if I'd thought to bring remounts for me and Addie, but assumin' there's no trouble along the way, we'll make good time. It's near enough to Lughnasadh that the road should be good with honest travelers. It might even help speed us along. Harvest Festival." His smile lifted at that, a boyish nostalgia.

"C' mon, mo chroi." Squeezing her hand, he nodded his thanks to Quinten a final time and started them towards the portal.

"Fair winds, you two. See you in a week." There was a definitive finality to his words as he sent them on their way. Addie couldn't help but glance back at him and offer one last grateful smile before letting Ro lead them to and through the glow of the portal. A fair match for the passing of time on Rhydin, late morning translated evenly to late morning on Earth, the sun midway up its climb to its apex from the east, giving them plenty of time to start their trek, no matter where they ended up.
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Last edited by Addie MacKenzie on Fri Aug 03, 2018 10:59 am; edited 3 times in total
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Trouble Magnet
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1767.46 Silver Crowns

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PostPosted: Fri Aug 03, 2018 12:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

July 27th, 2018

It was difficult to tell what that cold knot in his stomach was, the byproduct of the portal's use or the sudden familiarity of the area beyond driving itself home into his heart like a dulled blade. They arrived in a small clearing on a low hill that was thick with tall grass and mostly ringed in by sparse forest that thickened with distance. Red alder and white oak were broken up by more numerous bigleaf maple and ponderosa pine, rising up the steeper slope behind them in the full bloom and weight of midsummer. Below and through a few breaks in the sparser collections of trees, perhaps a quarter of a mile off, was the telltale sign of a moderately maintained road, the remnants of the old Route 20 leading to far off Corvallis.

Romeo took a deep breath as he looked around, the sights and sounds of his childhood crashing in on him in those stolen moments, and he eventually blew that breath out with a puff of his cheeks before turning towards his fiance. "This... this is it. We're here..."

"So we didn't end up on some random wrong Earth?" She said with a hopeful look that masked her anxious nerves. Her fingers were flexed, primed with energy in case they ran into some nasty upon arriving. But this... the landscape was calm, beautiful even. For all that Ro had told her of his homeworld, this almost... was disappointing. Not in a bad way. Moreso she had been thinking like Mad Max minus the cars and all. This was like the earth had retaken what humanity had stolen over the centuries. "Do you know where abouts we are?"

"That's old Route 20 down there," he told her and slipped his hand from hers to point out the road road where the slope gradually ended. "A good many of the Clan's Duns are tucked safely back off of it, though there are smaller roads leadin' to them. All but Sutterdown, which is the closest we get to havin' a real city and it's our biggest trade center, or it was by when I was a wee fella. From the looks of it, assumin' my memory is on, we're somewhere south of all that, which means we'd come upon Duns Fairfax, Juniper, or Carson somewhere along the way, dependin' on how far out we are. We're still technically in friendly country though with the McClintocks somewhere south of here. Keepin' in mind, if we're matchin' times, my memory is still over a decade old. A lot can change..."

Her gaze followed his point, tracking over the landscape until it met the road. The information he gave her was taken with a nod, tucking it away into her memory just in case. With her left hand, she twisted and adjusted the braided leather wristlet around her right arm and took a deep breath. If they were separated for any reason, they would always have a way back to each other and if worse ever came to worse, they would end up back in Rhydin at the end of the week. "And we're aiming for Juniper, right? I mean, things may've changed in the past decade, but it's a good starting place?"

"I'm hopin' we can get some confirmation of things along the road or, worst case, over at Dun Fairfax. If First Armsman Aylward is still in residence, then we could get abreast of what I've missed the last tenish years right quick. I mean, there's been nothin' serious afoot since the War of the Eye when I was like... nine, but another decade is still a long time. And if not him, then his wife, who's High Priestess of the Dun and would be in the know."

His hand engulfed hers again a few moments later and he started them down the hill, leading the horses. "We can mount up on the road and try to see how far we get before dark. We've got the makings for a camp. Bandits aren't too likely, I wouldn't think, but maybe some coyote. We don't often see tigers this far of the Columbia River."

"What was the War of the Eye over?" She asked. Obviously it wasn't over an eye for real. Or so she thought. But it would keep him talking at the very least while they moved down the incline with the horses in tow. He was smart and she had no problem walking a bit, the sturdy below the knee boots made for hiking rather than fashion. Midway down, she turned her head to stare at him. "Tigers... like, actual tigers?" Coyotes, she could handle. Maybe even a mountain lion. But tigers? ***.

"Okay, so, I know we've touched on this a little," he told her as they walked. "But try to picture this. With Disney and what we did in Florida, and the times we've been to a few places that are far more normal by the modern and non-magical point o' view. Imagine livin' in a place like that and suddenly there's no more electronics or guns. No cars. Best as I was learned growing up, when the Change happened, when all of that stuff happened, a lot of people died. People were used to running water and hospitals and grocery stores, the stuff you and I take for granted at home every day. Big cities are nothin' but ruins here, filled with bones and sometimes cannibals. Portland though, which was a big city, made it through because a right smart but ruthless bastard snatched up all the gangsters and bullies and folks who did know how to do stuff and got *** organizes. But his idea of organization was driving tens of thousands of people out of the city to die, and usin' a good portion of the rest for slave labor. Then he set his people up with land and power, and got real big eyes regardin' the rest of us. He wanted a kingdom.

Us Mackenzies, plus the Bearkillers, the monks up at Mount Angel, and those book boys over in Corvallis, they weren't havin' none of it. There were a few big battles fought, but in the end, it got settled by a duel between Portland's Lord Protector, the Lord Bear of the Bearkillers. Mike Havel killed the Protector, but then died of his wounds later, but it still took all the fight out of the Protector's people."

"Lord Bear." She snorted. "Sounds like what the twins'll grow up callin' Cooper."

Sometimes Addie joked when she was nervous. This was one of those times. But where she came from, the twins were both full fledged royals. 'Lord' sounded about right so it made sense in her head. Anyways, it wasn't very funny especially considering Ro was talking about slavery and death and duels and such, so moving on. Bumping her hip to his, she nodded. "It sounds like the good guys won that one. Always have faith that they will. They usually do. So it was all good after that?"

"I saw him once, when he visited Dun Juniper. The Chief, the MacKenzie herself herself, had a son by him before he was married . Rudi and me are 'round the same age and did Moon School together. Played on the same Little League team. We MacKenzies are mostly farm folk and crafters but we've got the meanest archers you ever did meet. The Bearkillers? All light calvary, skirmishers and horsearchers. Tough lot, though."

At the bottom of the hill, they moved out onto an empty stretch of Route 20, old asphalt that was only moderately well-maintained. Romeo paused them their, so that he could move his rounded shield and gladius over to his mount from the pack horse before moving to help Addie up into her saddle. "It was all good after that. Mostly just had to deal with bandits, wild animals, and the occasional band of Eaters, though they stay much closer to the dead cities now."

From Moon School to Little League, such was the contrast of Ro's childhood. Addie stayed close and listened from start to finish, lapping up each morsel of information he gifted her. It wasn't often that Ro would talk about where he came from though she supposed that actually being here was good enough to get him going. Just the same, she savored every moment. With the break in conversation, she mounted up, finding a comfortable spot atop the saddle. While she wasn't nearly the equestrian her cousin was, she was still fairly proficient on horseback. At least enough to get her where she needed to go without getting fancy. "You're one of the meanest archers I've ever met. They'll be hard pressed to top that for me. Just saying." She gave him a fond smile as they set off on horseback from there. "Ra--er, Mom, made an offering for our safe passage before we left. We shouldn't run into anything too rough along the way."

Hopefully no Eaters, for sure.

"I wasn't considered very good back then. Passable enough to maybe make the First Levy, I was always stronger than I was fast, but I never got the chance to find out." His smile was wistful when he was finally in the saddle, urging them a long down the road. Romeo himself was proficient enough to not kill himself and road passably, though he would never have won any awards for riding and the MacKenzies weren't the type to fight from horseback. "I figure we'll get a few miles sound of Dun Fairfax before nightfall. God and Goddess willin', we shouldn't see any trouble."

"That was a long time ago, Ro. You've grown a lot." She told him with an encouraging smile. Just in the time she had known him, the bruiser had grown from a rough and tumble street rat with a chip on his shoulder the size of the desert south of Cadentia to a semi-respectable contributing member of society. Romeo MacKenzie never ceased to amaze Addie and she knew it would only continue from there. "We won't, I know it. But lead the way, Ranger Ro. You have my unequivocal faith."

"We both have, acushla." He tipped a crooked smile her way with an impish caste to it. "It was together that we cast of those last few overdue pounds of immaturity. Well, mostly. I still like the videogame blowjobs and the thrill of gettin' caught in public bein' terrible together."

The playfulness faded into something far more fond and caused Romeo to lean in the saddle, reaching across the short distance to give her hand a squeeze. It was a fleeting bit of sweetness delivered with a last look before his attention once more stray to their surroundings, with the dual intention of being alert and drinking in a few memories of home. Much flooded back to him with the sights and the smells to serve as reminders, and soon enough he was rambling to her in was was easily a role reversal for the pair, pointing out the various flora and rattling off some of its uses.

"Twas they tempted Romeo over the sea, and I lost my lover, my cushla machree." She sang to him, trailing off into a giggle that cut through the quiet sounds of the forest. One hand held fast to the horn of her saddle while the other reached out for his, joining them for a few moments before his focus drew him away from her. Along the way, she drank in everything he told her, remarking here and there on what she could but mostly just enjoying as they rambled their way through the woods. As he foretold, as the sun began to set and the horses began to show signs of fatigue, Addie's chin lifted to indicate the area ahead. "Think here's where we sing Closing Time and call it a night?"

"Aye," he nodded and tugged lightly in the reins, coaxing his own mount and the pack horse to the right. It took them off the road and along a small game trail, that eventually spilled onto a flat clearing atop a forested hill. The makeshift fire pit appeared as though it hadn't seen use in weeks, maybe months, a sign that seemed to please the big blonde man. "We can pitch our tent and get a fire goin', I've got the fixings for a stew and a couple of Badsiders in a cooler back. It'll be cozy enough."

He was out of the saddle moments later, hitching his own horse and the one trailing to a nearby tree before turning to watch her dismount. There were open hands waiting for her to come closer.

It was a cautious dismount, careful as she got down to not make any missteps that might result in getting hurt and slowing down their trip. A night on the proverbial road meant one less night for them to spend with Ro's clan so she wanted to do everything she could to streamline the process. As she turned and spotted him with his hands turned her way, she broke into a smile and stepped over into grabbing distance, slinging her arms up around his neck accordingly. "You're pretty good at pitchin' tents, how bout you get that going and I'll start on food and we'll meet in the middle."

"Am I now?" He grinned and squeezed his burly arms around her slender waist, staring down into her vivid blue eyes for a few long moments. "Then who am I to spurn the advice o' such a lovely and charmin' woman? And I'll do it all for the price of a kiss." Instead of waiting for her to agree, he pressed a quick one to her smiling lips and then released her, stepping away though they were bound for the same destination. One bag was pulled from the pack horse and handed over to her with the rolled up mass of the camping tent freed up soon after and settled on a broad shoulder. It was a simple affair, sturdy aluminum poles that fitted together inside of a light, waterproof material, creating a round dome rising up out of a square and big enough for three people if they were the cozy sort. The work itself didn't take long, but Ro kept himself busy after by unfurling their two-man sleeping bag and the moving a short ways from the cap to dig a privy trench, patting himself on the back silently for remembering to bring toilet paper along.

"Just a kiss? Hark, call it a bargain!" She snickered and kissed him sweet and slow until they once more parted for the more practical part of their evening. Camp was needed sooner rather than later, so while he busied himself with the tent, she got a fire going with a little help from the old gods, and worked on throwing stew fixings into a small cast iron pot. It gave her time to grab ass him in passing, grinning cheekily all the way. "Food's 'bout done, babe. Come eat." The food. "The food. Then me. But food first."

"So bossy, Little Miss Rockstar." He made a face at her but didn't come running. Instead he played the part of responsible caravan leader and pulled the rest of their baggage from the pack horse and stowed it in the tent, letting it play the part of their third body before moving back to the horses. All three were set up with water and bags of oats before he finally gave into her whim and came slinking up to the flickering flames of the fire. One hand reached down to curl into the loose locks of her hair, toying with them fondly. "And what's on the menu tonight, mo chroi?"

"You love it." She countered but let him finish what he was working on. It gave her time to dish up from the cast iron pan into two smaller tin travel bowls. It was hearty, the sort of stew that stuck to the bones and warmed the soul. While it wasn't cold in July, the woods were still cool enough at night that when paired with the Pacific Northwest's perpetual moisture, could easily cause a chill. Tipping her chin up to look at him, she grinned a little and offered a bowl up. "A suuuuuuuuuper fancy beef and vegetable stew simmered in a light cajun roux. Five star, totally. Pairs nicely with a twenty-eighteen Red Orc ale a la Badsider."

"Must be the company I keep." Bending at the waist, he took the opportunity for another kiss as he took the tin bowl from her, eventually settling in alongside her. They were shoulder to shoulder, rubbing elbows in the most literal sense, but even as he ate he was casting smiles her way. "Wait, I thought I was the culinary genius and you were the super baker babe? Or is that just what I tell myself because you like bein' cooked for?"

"You think I haven't picked anything up from watching you cook?" She smirked at him, her tongue grazing her bottom lip in the wake of his kiss. Making sure to pinch his ass as he sat down, she scooted a little and settled her bowl on her legs where she could eat alongside him. "S'not bad for a quick job either but it'd be better if you'd make it. That said, I figured your talents were more crucial for the tent, you know?"

"Maybe someday I'll go to school for it, eh? The cookin' not the tent pitchin'. The latter requires natural talent." He winked at her before tucking back into the meal, making short work of the first full tin and then adding a second. There was no use in letting the extra go to waste and from the looks of it, there would be enough left for breakfast if it was left to warm over the fire. "I mean, I already know a lot, and I watch a lot of the cookin' shows when you're doin' Trash things with the girls. Plus I get my own ideas, though there's not a lot of room for them cookin' in a diner. Still, it's a thought."

The less work they had to put in in the morning, the better, and if that meant eating stew again, then so be it. They would only have a couple miles to the first town from setting off, which could be short work on horseback. "You're a natural at it, baby. I think you'd make an excellent chef or culinarian or whatever they call it. And if push came to shove, you could always perfect breakfast and build around your pancakes."

"I think if you had your way, acushla, I would be makin' pancakes every day for all the rest o' our years." His second helping was finished off and the tin was quickly washed out with a splash from his canteen before it was set aside. It was only then that Addie was caught by the belt loops of her jeans and hauled the remaining distance it took to deposit her in his lap. Big arms wrapped around her slender waist.

Taking no issue with her new perch, she settled in with a wiggle of her denim clad rump and slid him a demure smile. "Damn, you caught me. But would that be so bad? Makin' me pancakes every morning... and sometimes at night? And I'll make you those little cookies you like and cakes and we can make pizza together and that'll be a thing. And we can be happy and fat and full."

"Maybe now and then," he teased a gentle kiss across her jaw. "More when you're done with your career. Can't steal you away from all o' your fun too soon, Ads. There'll be plenty of time for everything when you're ready. Just gonna soak up the moments as they come and we'll figure out the rest later. But until then, pancakes as often as possible, eh?" Another gentle kiss touched behind her ear, sweet affection. His gaze continued to wander around the darkened forest, a content smile slanting his mouth.

"Romeo, Romeo, silly Romeo. If I had to choose between your pancakes and showbiz stuff, I'd take a stack a mile high." She said with a laugh. It was true. The modeling, the touring, the music, it all seemed... shallow after everything they had been through. Like it wasn't her true calling in life. Once upon a time it had been a matter of paying the bills, but now that she could do that without trouble, none of it carried the weight it once had. "But until then, how early are we gettin' up to get a move on?"

"But that the point, mo chroi. I won't ever make you choose. All things in their time." He smiled into the base of her jaw, rocking her back and forth slightly. One didn't get many moments such at these, so Romeo didn't answer her right away, instead just soaking it all as it came. When he finally answered, he did so against the soft pliable surface of her skin. "First light or a mite bit before. Get a good start since we couldn't make it in today."

"I know you wouldn't. You're cool like that. I'm just saying that even when I don't have to, I choose you. Kinda like Pikachu." She swayed with his motion, humming a little soft tune to go with it. They were good at comfortable quiet and the soft sounds of the forest certainly helped too. "Before's not bad. You know I'm not the morning sort but I'd get up for that."

"If I'm Pikachu, that makes you Squirtle." He snorted a laugh and snapped his teeth at her flesh, rocking her a little farther from side to side as she hummed. "And if you don't get up when it's time, tis mine own duty to wake you proper." There was a pause and then: "Probably with the cooled contents of my canteen, sure and I will."

Could she feel that crooked grin?

"Only if I get the Squirtle Squad sunglasses." Leaning away from the snap of his teeth, she wielded a pointed index finger and tapped him on the tip of his nose with it. "That's a mighty fine way to ensure you don't get laid for a month. But hey, if that's a risk you're willing to take, then have at it. That said, I think there are much better ways to get me wet in the morning."

"For you? The world." The tease of his fingers along her jaw drew her face to the side so that he could plant a gentle kiss on her mouth, slow and sweet before he withdrew. "I know there are, mine insatiable beauty." Big hands were lifting her slowly to her feet soon after, a hard squeeze given to her denim clad rear as he hefted his own bulk to his feet with a grunt. "Lettin' the fire burn itself out will keep the stew warm and ready for breakfast, so we may as well get ready for bed."

"I don't need the world, I only need yo-oh-oh-ooooooooo." Ever the songbird, she trilled the note with a wide grin as he lifted her up. Her ass was a little sore from spending the better part of the day riding, so standing was a welcome reprieve. Offering him her hands to help him up, she let go once he was steady and nodded. "I'll walk a ward perimeter and then be in. Should keep sharp teeth and prying eyes alike away."

"Good." He kissed her again, a quick peck and then moved towards the tent. "It would suck to have to swap watches with just the two of us and I've gotten a little out of practice since I settled up on the beach with the babe." Romeo ducked into their cozy little tent, kneeling down along the fringes of their great tandem sleeping bag so that he could slip free of his boots and set them to the side. His plaid came next, then his linsey woolsy shirt, leaving just the light trousers and wifebeater beneath. It was there he say and waited for her, his head tilted to the side and listening.

The triangular path was paced around the camp one step at a top. At the corners of the perimeter, she paused to imbue the warding spells she had learned over the years, including one Quinten had given her in the weeks prior to coming here. It would render their campsite beyond the realm of normal human perception, making most humans look right over it and find themselves compelled to go around instead of through. Those with a Sight might have an easier time seeing it, but the protective wards should have been enough to dissuade them from doing so. In all it only took ten minutes and soon she appeared in the tent's mouth, leaning down to climb in where she could zip it up and shed her clothing. "You know... that's a good look on you. If it weren't for us needing to get some sleep tonight, I'd keep you up all night doin' other things instead."

Ever the dutiful fiance, Ro helped her out of her coat and boots before laying back atop the heavy cushioned comfort of the sleeping bag. It was secure and warm within the modest confines of the tent, so instead of slipping into the quilted folds, he stretched out atop them with his fingers laced behind his head, staring up at her with a crooked smile. "You are more than good for that, acushla, that's for sure. But I'll settled for some kisses and wrapping you up tight with the promise of something cheekier in our future."

Peeling off her jeans and stripping out of her shirt, it left behind a lightweight tank top and boycut brief panties underneath. Pajamas, practically! She sank down and crawled over the blanket to tuck herself into his side, turning toward him to set her chin on his chest, one arm and leg draping over him. "I'm always good for kisses and cuddles... and maybe even a quick roll in the hay. You know... just in case we don't get a lot of privacy with your fam."

The rise of a hand saw a fond drag of his fingers through her lustrous hair and a teasing caress of a thumb's pad along her cheek. Propped so casually as he was, it was easy to study her lovely face and exotic eyes as they talked. "It might be so, on the rolling, quick or no, but as for privacy... no one would exactly be embarrassed or abashed, Ads. All acts of love and pleasure are my rituals, so sayeth the Lord and Lady. I think they'd be a little concerned if we weren't sexually active. Chastity is the province of Christians, afterall."

"Oh I'm not so naive as to think pagans of any sort would expect such a thing... I mostly just meant the privacy factor. They might be free love and all that, doesn't mean I want 'em walking in on us banging, you know?" She giggled with a tip of her mouth to his chest where she pressed a sweet kiss then looked back up at him. That face, rough and rugged, handsome in an almost roguish way, she had to kiss him. So kiss him she did, leaning in for a soft press of her lips to the corner of his mouth. "Kinda like goin' to Amberhelm... it's no big deal there, but it'd still be an awkward way to get to know the future in laws, yeah?"

"That would be... awkward, if only because I would feel obligated to stop. That would be a real pity." She kissed him and he grinned all the wider, coaxing her closer until he was practically a pillow for her body. "I mean, if they were strangers I wouldn't be bothered but if it were my ma..." A sudden thought struck him. "My ma... I'm gonna get to see my ma."

"That's the tragedy right there." She teased with a trio of pecked kisses against his chest and wiggled up onto him. Ro-pillow was best pillow. Her smile softened, her hand coming up to stroke his cheek. "You're going to get to see your ma and gods willing, your sisters and everyone else too. Crazy, isn't it?"

"It would be beyond imaginin' if it weren't happenin'." Two big hands rose to stroke the sides of her face, along her jaw, lazy and gentle. His own gaze danced along hers, stealing a moment to enjoy her own satisfaction of the notion before continuing. "It's one hell of a give, it is. Can't even begin to contemplate what I could do to top it."

Settling in against him, she relaxed bit by bit, finding comfort in his embrace. "It's not about toppin' it, Ro. I tried for a really long time to be able to go home... but even still it wasn't nearly as long as you'd been gone. When I found out that... everything was gone, I felt like a failure and well... I thought that if I couldn't, you still needed a chance. Trust me when I say that getting this done for you is as much for me as it is for you. I love you."

"I love you," he returned the words with the brush of a kiss. "And I've never been happier to steal a wallet in all o' my days. Never thought it would land me here in the now, with you. It changed my luck forever. Whatever we both lost, even if a little regained, you're my world now and one I'm never gonna let go of. Not ever."

"You know, you could'a just like... asked me for my number on one of my deliveries. Would've been way easier than stealing my wallet." She teased with a wag of her finger. With that she laid her head down on his chest, right over his heart so she could listen to its steady strength. "I know baby... I know... could ya do that thing with my hair til I doze off?"

"You were with someone, though I didn't know at the time, and by the time I got the notion to try, you were suddenly famous." Capturing her finger, he brought it in for a gentle bite to the tip. "But we're here now, so what happened then is just a story on the road that got us here in the now, so I'm not gonna look a gift horse in the mouth. Instead I'm gonna do that thing with your hair until you pass out."

And he did, slipping a gentle hair beneath dark locks, combing through them and stroking gently at the back of her neck. He watched her like that for a long time as he soothed her in a way that had become all too familiar in some of their sweetest moments, the sort that could be had with clothes on.
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Addie MacKenzie
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 03, 2018 12:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

July 27th, 2018

Sweet touches eventually faded into gentle slumber, broken only by the rustle of material and the quiet sounds of more carnal activities come morning beneath the twittering tweets of birds and the whistle of the wind through the trees. The slickness of skin on skin parted with a quiet laugh and a sated sigh as Addie rolled over to fix her fiance with a sleepy but cheeky little grin. "Took about thirty minutes out of our day, you know... worth it?"

The original intention had been for something quick, but not less passionate. Romeo should have known better but his expression showed no signs of regret when Addie fixed him with a smile, which be mirrored crookedly. A few more moments were stolen to gather her up into his arms, before be spoke. "Why do you think I wanted to wake up so early? You know a better way to get the blood pumpin'?"

A soft kiss was placed on her mouth, quick before he withdrew and rolled away to reach for his boots. The big blonde man watched her as he got himself dressed, his mouth fixed with a smile that was more private in nature in the moment. "Shouldn't take long to eat and break camp. Still a pretty good jumpstart on the day."

"It's a good warm up for sure... makes it tempting to stay here a bit longer." But she knew she shouldn't so as he let her go, she pressed herself up and got dressed as well. As she zipped up her pants and tugged on her jacket, she kissed him on the cheek and slid out of the tent. "Want me to kill the wards or wait til we're ready to ride?"

"There'll be plenty of time for that." There was a wink given before he was up and at 'em , giving her a sharp slap across her denim-clad backside to get her moving, making the requisite room for him to start rolling up their sleeping bag. "Go ahead and drop them. We should be fine."

A few minutes later he was breaking down their tent and rebagging it, leaving everything in a neat pile before he joined her at the fire.

The same line she had walked the night before was taken in reverse, undoing her mark and leaving no trace of the foreign magics she had used to safeguard their campsite. When she finished, she came back to the dwindling embers of the fire and nudged them back to life though much smaller than the night before. It was enough to reheat the remnants of their stew and provide a little heat within the damp coolness of the woods. A couple splashes of water rinsed Addie's bowl when she finished, the canteen offered over to Ro a moment later. "Bout set?"

"Yeah. Let me get a little somethin' hot and heart in me and we can pack the horses. Then it's onward to Dun Fairfax for news, Dun Juniper after." The canteen was taken and a mouthful of water was swallowed down, his camp bowl filled and used like a cup for the next few minutes as he got himself fed, taking the time to eye the trail leading back down to old Route 20. Ro made short work of his meal and rinsed his bowl; it and the rest were carefully stowed with the rest of their things and a goodly amount of dirt was kicked over the remnants of their fire. Lashing their bags down to the pack horse took only a few minutes more and soon enough he was leading Addie's horse over to her, offering out the reins. "Time to go home."

"Home, you're almost there." A quiet little cantrip ensured that the fire was for sure snuffed and as she followed him, she took the reins and leaned up to give the steed plenty of loves. She may have even snuck it a sugar cube or two, smuggled to earth in one of the pouches worn on her belt. With a guilty little grin shot Ro's way, she mounted up and wriggled to settle in the saddle. "Mmph, muja, remind me to save the shenanigans for times when I'm not gonna be sitting in a saddle for hours afterwards."

"And here I thought I'd long since broken you in, mo chroi." He shot her an wicked smile from over the saddle before he mounted up and led them out, carefully picking their way down the gentle but uneven grade of the hill. "Might be that I'm just not workin' hard enough to get your endurance up but I suppose we still need goals in this relationship, aye?"

He gave her wide eyes and a bob of brows as they returned to the main road that would lead them west, eventually looking away from Addie to turn his smiling face up towards the sky. That was when he saw the smoke in the distance.

"There's breaking in and there's roughing things up and then expectin' me to ride a real horse for a few hours." She laughed and swatted the air between the horses. Her horse followed his, guided with gentle shifts of the reins and the requisite tensing and relaxing of her thighs to give the horse subtle signals along the way. Once they cleared the thicker parts of the woods in favor of road, she brought her steed up alongside his instead of riding behind him. A clever retort was on the tip of her tongue when it was stolen by the line of his gaze. Addie followed and frowned. That wasn't good. Black smoke in the distance. It usually meant inorganic material being burned since wood and such burned white or even grey depending on the source. "...We're going that way, aren't we?"

"It's a few miles off," he replied, suddenly grim. "That'd be Dun Fairfax... Aylward the Archer's crofts."

Romeo stared at the smoke for a few tense moments before cutting her a look sidelong, his gaze seeking out her own. He found that piercing blue, the familiar in the exotic, before clenching his jaw. He wanted to tell her that maybe there was an accident, possibly a roving bandit band, but an ominous feeling had settled over him like a heavy weight on his shoulders. "Let's go."

He broke into a trot, then a canter, a quickened pace that showed his self-control in the moment and the self-aware of his own minimal riding skills. A hand reached over his shoulder to free his heavy bow from its case, then a single shaft, both of which he held, though not at the ready. Firing a longbow from horseback was limiting and might have been beyond his own skill.

Dun Fairfax, exactly where they were supposed to be going. She met his gaze steadily, calm in the face of impending trouble. His news was met with a nod and a light nudge of the reins to get her horse going again. Her feet found a good spot in the stirrups to hold her weight as she lifted up enough for a faster pace, knees bent, her weight centered. Riding with Averia and Alex had paid off at last. Unlike Ro, she wanted to go faster, to get there and see what had happened and if anyone needed help. "You're gonna have trouble getting a shot off from there. If trouble comes, dismount and I'll handle your horse, okay?"

In built over time, the speed, and within the first few minutes Ro had finally pushed his horse into a gallop with a firm set of his knees and a narrowing of his eyes. They ate up the few short miles far quicker than he had originally intended but as they approached the last curve in the road with the smoke dangerously close, he showed them back to a trot. Galloping horses made too much noise and for as urgently as he wanted to get there, he was smart enough to not race them around the bend and into a potential mess. But he could hear the shouting, an intangible roar of voices that were the hallmark of real battle, which set his heart to beating faster, as much from anticipation as from fear of what he'd find. And then a booming voice, weathered like an old oak, carried over it all.

"Let the grey geese fly, wholly together... Shoot!"

"Whoaaa..." She said gently to her steed as Ro slowed their pace, tugging back on the reins to ease it to back. The din around the bend was enough to send a chill down her spine. It was a little bit like Nosgoth before she and Kane left. Or more accurately, before they were sent away. Her jaw tightened and she settled down into the saddle but only for now. "Breathe, baby. What's the call?"

"The Dun still stands." He was able to tell her without evening seeing it. That voice was well known to him. A look as snapped back Addie's way as he hung both his buckler and gladius on his belt, keeping his own and a single shaft across his stirrup. "We hug the woods on the south side of the curve. Don't wanna risk cuttin' through because we don't know if there's scouts or even if they're friendly, and I'm ten years removed from any skill in woodcraft. So we hug the trees, hope my plaid is enough to not get us shot by friendlies, and see what we can do to help. You with me?"

He knew she was, but there was a reassurance in hearing it.

"Of course I'm with you." She said without hesitation and drew up next to him. Leaning in her saddle, she reached for his hand, her other hand pushing his sleeve up slightly. She held it there so that she could etch a little mark on the inside of his forearm, her lips moving with subtle spellwork. The same mark was replicated on the inside of her own arm. "Protection and quiet steps. Lead the way, I'm right behind you."

"I like it better when it's the other way around," he murmured with the fleeting ghost of a smile before his expression turned stern again. Ro untethered pack horse from his cantle and tossed the reins over a nearby branch; the great beast of burden was well trained and was unlikely to stray that far from the sight and smells of battle. Wary, he trotted his own mount forward along the path he had called out for them, leaning forward in the saddle, alert and ready as he was going to get. On the softer ground off of the road, the hurried trot muffled the sounds of their hooves, a precaution that was likely pointless as they drew closer to battle but someone might have had an ear out.

Around the bend, the ground opened up around the old Pre-Change highway. To the right stood the walls of Dun Fairfax, almost twenty feet of ferroconcrete, timber, and rebar that had been smoothed to a more inviting shine by plaster, the white of which had been touched by fire and smeared black in places. The heavy log gates stood closed, with maybe a dozen defenders with bows atop the walls, and them mainly just old men and boys. Below, three wagons lay overturned in the middle of the road like small siege walls and one of them smoldering, with milling bodies hunkered down within, maybe a half a dozen in kilt and tartan eerily similar to Romeo's and close to twice their number unmoving. A keening wail rose from within as arrows and javelins rained down. Other bodies lay scattered elsewhere nearby, horses dead or dying and men, a great many men, all of them in drab green fatigues reminiscent of the modern American military or lacquered red-brown armor of boiled leather. Their survivors were an unknown quantity and number, sheltered by the thick Oregon forest that opposed the Dun on the other side of the highway. Those inside the wagon wall were pinned down, seemingly unable to fight back or to flee to the safety of the gate.

Swearing softly, Romeo turned them immediately into the cover of the woods before they could be spotted, backtracking only a little before he slipped from his saddle and looked up to Addie. "MacKenzie bows can only do so much with the forest for cover."

Just as she promised, she was hot on his tail, taking the quietude charm and using it to her advantage to move quietly and silently behind him. Her gaze first slid upward along the walls, tracing the numbers atop it before sliding down to the carnage below. A purse of her lips blew a low whistle. That was a lot of dead or injured right there. People she could and should help. For the time though, she resisted the urge to move forward to do so, instead looking down at Ro when he dismounted. "I can cover you... otherwise... tell me what you want to do."

"Numbers. Need an idea for their numbers." Ro's face screwed up in thought. "If I had my way, we'd try to flush them out into the open where the archers on the wall would have prime targets. Or force them to retreat, so we could at least get the wounded from that wreckage to the gate. I... hm. Here's what we're gonna do. I'm gonna try to skulk around to their other flank. Do you have a way, with your gifts, to make a whole lot of ruckus on this side... like a hundred men chargin' and tossin' battlecries?"

"Numbers." She repeated, frowning as she watched his cogs turn. While it was a valiant plan, she was at a minor loss as to what to do. Thumbing through her pouches, she paused on one at her right hip though it wasn't quite what she was looking for. "What... if it were something that'd scare the *** out of them just the same... less human though..."

"That works. I just need it to get their attention. I'm hopin', if they aren't more numerous than the situation implies, that we can flush them in one direction or the other. But, and I'm serious aboutt his, if they turn to charge your way, do not hold your ground. Flee east or east and around to the wall. The wagons. With the strength of your magic, I'd dare say that any distraction might allow you to get the survivors to the gate."

"Take this before you go around," she said, unclipping and offering out the pouch to him. "No extra effort necessary, it'll just echo what I throw your way so if we can get them in between us, it should be enough to catch them from both sides." She took a deep breath and nodded one more time. "But I got it, I'll see you soon enough, yeah?"

Taking the pouch, he nodded. "You will, acushla." He reached up for her then, grasping her by the front of her jacket and hauling her into bending at the waist so that he could kiss her soft and quick. "That I can promise you. No one's gonna tear us apart, not even the gods."

Maintaining her balance on the horse took some skill, but she managed it even as he pulled her down. She hummed a pleased little sound against his lips and eased back when she was breathless. "Get around as quick as you can. The more we get between, the better."

"I will." Nodding, he let his gaze linger on her for a moment longer before he sprinted off, quietly thanks to her charm, and soon enough disappearing to the southeast. Ahead, the battle still waged and from the sounds in seemed as though neither side was gaining or losing much of anything. The seconds ticked by into minutes and when Romeo was finally in position he fitted a bodkin shaft to the string of his great bow, relying that Addie's own attunement to the pouch would let her know when he was in position. From the angle of the slope, the burly blonde man could see the shapes of close to fifty men, close to twenty of them prone and unmoving. Like those on the wall, they had the advantage of good cover, mostly the thick boles of old trees.

She counted to sixty exactly four times, giving her fiance enough time to get around the throng and into a good place that put the other life signatures between them. It wasn't often she drew on such a gift, but Romeo may have noticed the blue of her eyes was particularly bright before he left. Such a thing made sense soon though when a bone rattling roar split the air and shook the trees of the forest. Neither bear nor tiger could have competed with the draconic rumble and when it reached Ro (and namely the pouch she had given him), the sound echoed back toward her, turning into a caterwauling din of beastly noise.

In the moments following the monumental roar, a pin drop could have been heard on the highway for the silence that fell, all save for the cries of the wounded or dying. The attackers were suddenly looking around, most of them with bewildered expressions as they tried to make sense of the thundering roar and its potential origins. One officer in green fatigues tried to restore something resembling order and began barking commands, his counterpart in the red-brown lacquered arm doing likewise but with more threats.

"One more time, mo chroi," Ro whispered to himself. "Get these f*ckers in a lather."
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 03, 2018 12:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

(Continued)

By then she had dismounted but only for the sake of the followup. Tipping her head back, she let out another roar and stamped her foot against the ground. Though it kicked up dust for her, it sent rumbling tremors through the woods, a few shallow fissures opening to swallow up smaller bushes and shrubs. Her hand held the horse's reins though, just in case she needed to mount up quickly.

This time when the road sounded, Romeo directed the face of the pouch towards the southeast and, by the luck of the Lord and Lady, it had the desired effect. Nearly ever head whipped towards the east and southeast, a startled cry rising in the ranks as the bodies bunched together naturally, a huddle in preparation for something terrible. The leather armored officer was about to snap something again at his men to rally against their fear, the first words forming on his lips when Ro drew the string back on his bow until it was parallel to the hinge of his jaw and then released.

Snap.

The thirty-two inch shaft took the man through the throat with enough force to pass through the neck completely, damaged fletching causing it to wobble in flight despite the applied force and stick into the back of the man behind him hard enough to pitch him forward. In the span of five seconds, five more arrows were in flight or striking home, all in rapid succession as near panic turned to surprise. In that moment, he peered from around a thick red lead maple and bellowed load enough for all to hear.

"We are the point! We are the edge...!"

Silence turned to chaos and Ro's shout cut through the air. She swung herself up into the saddle and kicked the horse into gear. While her direction may have been clear, she still wanted to get forward if she could for the sake of the injured. That said, she didn't go galloping onto the field just yet. It was likely those on the wall would be just as scared as the men in the forest and thusly, she didn't want to chance getting riddled with arrows until she had Ro back in her sights.

Romeo let two more shafts fly, both of them striking home into the same body as he drove another man to the ground. Breathing heavy and mostly undaunted, he lifted his chin to the canopy of green overhead and bellowed again, drawing more attention to himself. By now, the remaining twentyish men were looking in all direction and ignoring the cover to the north.

"We are the point! We are the edge...!"

And then, a dull roar rose from the walls of Dun Fairfax.

"We are the wolves that Hecate fed!"

Romeo grinned wickedly and knocked another shaft.

"We are the bolt! We are the shaft...!"

And again: "We are the bolts that Hecate cast!"

It was no arrowstorm of MacKenzie legend, but the arrows still rained down moments later, taking the lives of those who had abandoned their cover.

When Ro didn't immediately emerge, she held back on her reins. The call and answer, though encouraging, left her worried about how much attention he was calling to himself. Thankfully it seemed their give and take had smokescreen of sound and motion had done the trick. She felt the scattering of life through the woods and out into the clearing. Just as quickly as they had moved, their lives were snuffed. Addie exhaled, sagging in her saddle but reaching out to see if she could pinpoint Ro's location.

All of the men in green fatigues were down, dead or dying, leaving a half dozen of the men in the red-brown leather. The situation being grim as it was, they suddenly lurched to the north and charged towards the wagons, dodging around trees as they made a final push too take what lives they could. They added a fanatical scream to the air in the form of CUT, CUT, CUT! With a curse and a growl, the big blonde man sprinted after them, a long stride and great need eating up the distance.

He broke the cover of the trees as the attackers did and managed to hobble one of them when a shot on the fly took the man threw the calf. The rain of arrows had subsided when the men got too close to the wagons, a collective cry rising from the wall (and a grizzled curse) before a single well-placed arrow from above punched through a man's chest and reduce their number to four. Ro charged but would never have made it within melee range in time to do much good but the young man's stamina was a force to be reckoned with on his worst day and he still had one thing he could do. Still two dozen paces away from the wagons when the attackers were nearly over, he jerked to a stop and took a deep breath.

And then, Romeo MacKenzie roared.

It was as good of a cue as any. Addie gave the reins a whip a broke cover. Quickly woven spellwork offered her a shielding cushion should any on high take her for a foe rather than a friend. Though Addie had only heard of what that particular thing did, she knew that there would be cleanup to do. It would likely handle the rest of the baddies and leave them with lots of good ones that needed assistance. High in her saddle, she rode hard from the opposite side from where Ro had broken through the treeline, giving him plenty of time to do his thing without her getting in the way while still leaving her close enough when the dust settled.

Half of the wagon bearing the climbing attackers was obliterated when the sonic wave struck, shattered pieces of wood and metal, as well as shattered men, cast upward and away like someone had kicked a waste bin over. The limping man who hadn't made it far enough was shoulderchecked by an angry Romeo when he'd finally finished the race, throwing the man to the ground in a gasp of agony.

"My kin," he snarled as a red rage rolled over him. His bow forgotten on the road as he straddled the squirming man and began raining heavy fists down on his head. "MY KIN!" The words faded away in his roar as he beat the man to death with his bare hands.

"Ah ***." She swore under her breath, dismounting before her horse had even slowed to a stop. Hitting the ground running, she sprinted toward Ro much too late to keep him from beating the man to a pulp. It reminded her a bit of when he had thrown a certain drug dealer from a second story window. Not the most flattering of lights to paint him in currently, but could she really blame him? In short... no. Still, she reached him and looped her arms around him to try and draw him away. "Muja, love, it's done. He's gone, the others need our help."

A leonine snarl tore from his mouth as the body was given one last shove before Addie's arms hauled him up and her soothing presence began to wash away the red rage in slow, lapping ripples. It didn't subside completely until his gaze found hers, the raging fire in his eyes doused by vivid, exotic blue. It ended in full when he rested his forehead against hers, stealing some moments to soak up the silent reassurance she offered before expression began mildly ashamed. It didn't last, however, as a pained sob came from the wreckage before them. It was a sobering sound.

"Help them," he pleaded with her, before planting his feet and shoving a broad shoulder into one of the overturned carts, using his size and leverage to create an opening wide enough for two people abreast. "It's over," he told one determined looking young man whose face was half covered in blood. "We're here to help." It seemed to mollify the kilted Clansman somewhat, but much of the tension remained.

"Who are you?" The young man asked, pushing a mess of raven hair out of his face and trading his attention between Romeo and the other survivors.

"Merry met," Ro responded in typical MacKenzie fashion, grimacing slightly as a flood of memories bubbled up from the deep recesses of his mind that the face before him became something more familiar. "And you know damned well who I am, Rourke Wilson MacKenzie because I gave you that crooked nose when you were thirteen for pushin' my wee little sister into a thorn bush."

"R-r-romeo...?" Recognition was slow in the coming, for all the decade and more removed from Ro's presence, coming back to the other young man in a stutter as his eyes went wide, as if he was looking upon a ghost. "But you're ten years and more dead, right and you are... Are you a spirit now...?"

Confronted with the sudden reintroduction, the big burly blonde man didn't see the slightly younger woman behind Rourke. She was tall and slim, but toned, with her long platinum blonde hair in a braid that reached to the middle of her back and the color of her own wide-eyed gaze a dead ringer for the MacKenize returned.

Her hands touched to either side of Ro's face, her thumbs smudging away the flecks of blood that had spattered his skin as he beat the now dead man. A single nod was offered in response to his plea, her hands letting him go so that he could get back to work. The injured and dead were close to equal numbers but Addie didn't intend the latter to gain any more. Pulling away from Ro and the cart, she shrilled a whistle for the horse, meeting it halfway to steal her pack from one of the saddlebags. She looped a hand through the strap and hurried back, coming to kneel beside the first fallen she could find to administer whatever first aid or mystical healing that she could. Mostly it was enough to stabilize so that she could move to the next. Her fiance's name on another's tongue drew her gaze, her head lifting to turn a curious look to the young man and more specifically, the blonde woman behind him. "...Gods above."

"Does a spirit beat a man to death with his bare hands, Rourke." The response came with what was half a snort, half a growl. "I'm home, you daft git, or close to it. Now let's see to the injured and the fallen and get out asses inside so's we can both get answers." He clapped the other man hard on the other arm and turned away to see about helping Addie, but was instead confronted with another piece of the past. Romeo stopped in place, frozen in a moment as his own expression grew to mirror the blonde woman's.

"Aisling," he breathed her name and the breath caught in his throat. When he had last seen his youngest sister, she had been a skinny, awkward little thing with her hair in pigtails, annoying but sweet and their mother's greatest joy. Now she was a woman grown, or close enough, five years his junior but whipcord lean and beautiful. "Please tell me you became a lesbian because I might have to murder any man who looks at you wrong..."

Apparently, that was all it took to snap the young woman out of her gawking stare, a telling (if not embarrassing) affirmation that suddenly saw her flinging herself at Romeo to throw her arms around him. "It is you!"
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 03, 2018 1:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

(Continued)

That made plenty of sense right there. Addie couldn't help the little smile that caught her lips as she gave the siblings a few moments to get their reunion taken care of while she worked on the second to last of the fallen. She was quick, efficient, everything her mother would have wanted her to be. It was a shame, Quinten had said, that she hadn't Chosen to continue down the Weaver's path. Dusting her hands off, she offered a little blessing to the man before getting to her feet and hurrying over to the last one on the field still bearing grievous injuries and a pulse. It wasn't pretty though. She sank down and grimaced, feeling out the man's injuries before shaking her head. "Ro... not to break up your moment but... I need another pair of hands here..."

The young woman's body were racked with sobs of both joy and relieft as Romeo held her, but when Addie's call came, he urged Aisling back with a final squeeze and a reassuring murmur before turning to his fiance. A few quick steps saw him kneeling at her side, a serious gaze passing between her and her patient. "Tell me what you need."

"I'm..." She shook her head a little bit, more breathless than she should have been. Titan's Touch wasn't meant for the sheer amount of power she had put into the seismic stomp that had startled the Dun's adversaries. It tended to drain the caster's power stores, leaving her little with which to work with when it came to healing. Her hands were busy keeping pressure and lifegiving energy upon the worst of the man's wounds, leaving her little way to get what she needed. "Red satchel on the back of my belt. There's a smaller bag of yellow gel caps. Grab me two of them?"

"Got it." He nodded and moved behind her, reaching for the indicated satchel near the small of her back and opening it up. The smaller bag was easily found within and the pills as much so, which were held in a cupped hand before her in a matter of moments. "Give them to him?"

"No... me..." She said, opening her mouth for him to give her them. When he did, her mouth closed, her teeth squeezing down on the capsules until they burst. A sour expression scrunched her nose and twisted her mouth but she swallowed just the same. No comments from the Ro-gallery, either. Thirty seconds later, she nodded. "Okay... okay I'm good. He needs stitches for the worst of this. I can give him a boost to get him there, but is there anyone we can take him to?"

"There'll be a High Priestess inside the Dun, good enough for doctorin'." Romeo nodded again and turned a look back to Aisling and Rourke, taking on a tone of authority he hadn't used since before he had moved away from the Hollows. "Get the walkin' wounded inside the gates and get someone out here with a stretcher."

The pair gawked at him and Addie for a moment, before he set them to running with a harsh: "Move!"

"Alright. The rest of them should be good to get in with minimal assistance." She said with a look toward the young man and woman standing nearby. There was a soft, almost shy smile for them, before she bowed her head and went back to work. The boost the man needed came in the form of a pouring of holy energy from her palms into the soft, injured flesh, stabilizing it with the embrace of a short term protective spell. A bit like supernatural medical glue. As the pair went running, she cut Ro a private and hopeful little smile. "Sister?"

"Baby sister." His face lit up again into a wide, crooked smile as he rose. "That'd be one Aisling Masters MacKenzie, the apple o' Mama Masters MacKenzie's eye, the spoiled little wench."

The smile lost very little of its luster as Ro took a long look at their surroundings, suddenly concerned that there might be more of the enemy about and eventually turning his attenion to the tops of Dun Fairfax's wall. A great, gruff voice with a Hampshire burr was barking orders and the remaining archers were just as alert, though often flicking curious glances down to the two newcomers. In good time, two able bodied young men who were little more than boys came out bearing a stretcher of canvas stretched across two long dowels. Romeo helped them get the gravely injured man aboard and then moved to grab his bow from where it had been dropped before turning back to Addie.

"I suppose I know what the news from the homefront is gonna be," he said to her as his smile faded. "Those weren't raiders. Those were soldiers."

"I always wanted a little sister." She said with a fond smile. Who knew it would take a temporal displacement into a different timeline to get her wish. Sure, it was a younger version of herself, but the differences between Addie the Elder and Addie the Younger were already becoming prominent. While Ro kept watch, she worked her literal magic until the boys came out to help retrieve the last fallen. When he was steady and on his way back into the fortress like Dun, Addie rose and steadied herself. "All the betters to get the horses and get inside?"

"Right." It took fifteen minutes and some doing to retrieve their horses, but when the returned the gates of the Dun were still opened just enough to allow them through, where a handful of MacKenzie yeoman were waiting at the back of a grizzled old man. He was of an average height for a man, in his sixties but with a thick barrel chest, a slim waist, and the heavy arms of an archer. Gone stoic for the man's scowl, Ro lifted his hand to put the back of his fist to his forehead in a traditional MacKenzie salute.

"First Armsman," the younger man said to the older with a tone of deep respect.

"Not for a handful of years now, lad," the older said, he who was the source of that thick Hampshire burr from atop the wall. "And now here I stand lookin' at lookin' at a boy who should be dead and wonderin' why I should believe anything otherwise."

Diligent in collecting what she could, she led her own horse on foot to the Dun's entrance. There were still archers above and the last thing she wanted to do was make herself a target. Ro claimed he wasn't nearly the archer that many of his kinsmen were and he was... amazing. She didn't want to see what kind of damage they could do. Letting Ro lead, she positioned herself slightly behind him, peeking around him when the older man spoke. And thankfully, it wasn't about how silly Ro looked doing that salute. "It's a really long story, Sir. But... it's one we'd be willing to tell, should you have us."

"You'll believe me, Sam Aylward, and for two reasons." Romeo held up a finger. "One, because by luck or by skill, we just saved the asses of a half dozen clansmen and woman." He held up the second finger. "And two, because I can recount in intimate detail the time you took the blunt end of a bow stave to both mine and your boy Edain's asses for gettin' into the fresh apple pies and cheeses your own Hearth Mistress Melissa's that she brought to Dun Juniper for Imbolc when Edain was eight and I was eleven. I don't know who howled the louder, us boys or your own lady wife, Lord and Lady bless her."

It took a few moments, but eventually the older man's stern scowl crumbled beneath the recollection and he barked a harsh, breathy laughter. "Roight and okay, boy, I'm ready to listen... Come up to the house, you and your lady friend with the medico's skills , and we'll talk about what there is to talk about."

Ro smiled. "Her name is Adelaide Victoria Allen and her sept is Dragon. And soon to be one Adelaide Masters MacKenzie, if the fates are kind. Addie, acushla, this is none other than Sam Aylward, called Aylward the Archer for all the years I've been alive."

And like that, the trio were moving into the Dun.
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 03, 2018 2:04 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

(Continued)

Addie suppressed a quiet giggle into her fiance's shoulder, relaxing slightly when the older man let out a laugh and conceded their presence in the Dun. When Ro introduced her properly, she had the sense to step fully to his side rather than hiding behind him. Though a bit unsure of just how to address such an introduction, she treated it as one might treat a new meeting in Amberhelm. She bowed slightly, a shallow thing, just enough to be respectful without being formal. "The Sam Aylward? Merry met, Sir, I've heard so much about you from Ro." Thankfully she didn't add in Thank you for letting us in instead of shooting us. That she could share with Ro later over relieved giggles.

"Quite the eyes you've got there, girlie," the Archer commented during their trek to the main house within the Dun. "Them younger folks will eat that up with a spoon, roight and they will. If this were a quarter century past, I'd be suspectin' they were them contact lenses so popular in the clubs, but these days real magic is afoot and I imagine you've quite a story to tell bein' in the company of a youngin' over a decade in the Lady's sweet earth."

The old man barked orders between snippets of conversation with the recent arrivals and Romeo only saw his younger sibling in passing as MacKenzies of all ages rushed about with all things related to the battle outside. The big burly blonde looked at the man leading them in askance when he realized that the Dun was far more sparsely populated that it should have been this close to a holy day. "We'll talk inside. You wouldn't be the only one with a story, boyo."

Inside the Aylward house they were pulled a strong drink from a keg within the kitchen and invited to sit. The interior of the old Fairfax house had something of a modern look to it, at least by the standards of the late 20th century, but there were touched that spoke of changes. Like the oil burning lamps on tables and in sconces to give light where electricity was impossible and the great wide woodstove for the cooking of meals, instead of something more convenient. Ro seated Addie before taking a seat beside her, fixing the Archer with a look of curious concern and it was obvious what was on his mind.

"Quite the story is certainly an understatement, I think." She said with a little smile up at Ro as they walked. Side by side, she slid a hand into his, lacing their fingers and giving him a light squeeze of reassurance. It be parted so quickly from his sister after being apart for ten years had to have been troublesome but she knew it would be fast remedied, and likely more quickly if they went through the motions of explaining just where Ro had been and how he got back after being gone so long. Sure to wipe her feet before she came inside, there was no small amount of muck to kick off thanks to running through the field to tend to the injured. Mud and blood, an awful combination she didn't want to track in. But once she was seated, she offered Ro a sidelong smile and reached a hand for his once more, anchoring him in hopes of diffusing at least some of his worry as she too turned her attention back to Aylward. He was the eldest of those at the table, it was only polite to let him lead.

"Happy enough as this little reunion is," Sam started, "I'm afraid the most of it, part and parcel, might be better suited for the Lady Herself up at Dun Juniper. Her and your kin, thems that's there. Imagine I'll here the full of it where we're farther west and as much as I'm thankful for yer arrival and help, the botha you'd be better off hearin' what's what of the goin's on 'round here before you step back out of gate. A lot's changed, boyo. The territories of the Meetin' are now a whole kingdom, right and true outa the pages of one of them silly books--"

"Association?" Romeo cut in with sudden concern before he was promptly put in his place by a hushing bark of the older man.

"You shush up and let me finish, lad. I'm not so old and you're not so brawny that I can't still switch yer hide with a yearling bow stave! No, not the gits from the north. No, boyo, everyone and them some have been united under the chief's own boy and tanist, Rudi, after some wild quest that took him to the other side of this old country and saw the Powers, whoever they are, but a magic sword in his hand. We've been at war these last few years, some cult of crazies from out Montana way with a host of militant nutjobs and some tosser from down Idaho way who's under their thumb. It was roight close for a minute. Chuck Barstow took over fer me as First Armsmen a few years ago and the first big go at them wankers put him in the soil. Plenty enough folks lost since, though the Ard Rhi of our new and fair Monitval brought back friends from the east, Rudi did, and kicked their arses right back outa the Palouse country and past Pendleton."

At the very least, they wouldn't have to repeat the story twice in short succession. On the other hand, Sam's bark made her jump, straightening her posture in her seat as she traded a look from the older man to Ro and back. Her teeth nipped into her bottom lip, restraining commentary as Aylward went back into his explanation. There was a definitive hierarchy that vaguely reminded her of Amberhelm and though in other circumstances it would have made her smile, she instead inhaled deeply and listened. Much of it was as close to Greek to her as it could be. Except she actually vaguely understood Greek. Maybe this was more like Mandarin or something. Ancient Draconic? Yeah, that. There were a few bits that seemed slightly familiar but she couldn't piece it all together in one go. Her hand tightened on Romeo's but her gaze remained upon Sam. "How bad is it?" She asked softly when he finished.

A deep abiding memory, both of muscle and mind, made Romeo jump when the Archer had barked. A ruefully smile crept up afterward but was swept away beneath the weight of the older man's words. "Rudi's timin' and the way he used our combined forces, fractitious as the territories of the Meetin' can be, turned the tide. It helped that the enemy army was overextended and had no choice but ta break us at the Horse Heaven Hills or be forced to retreat and possibly starve as the mountain passes snowed over with the onset of late autumn and early winter. The Cutters were crushed and the Ard Ri, silly title it is, slew the bossman from Boise, which broke the ones that the boy's companion from Idaho didn't win over to our side before. No, with the exception of rovin' bands like the one you saw outside, abandoned and fightin' for what they can, the armies of this crazy prophet chappie have been broken and pushed out. Now the swords and bows are bein' gathered to march right into the heart of their own lands and snuff 'em out fer good."

Ro had been utterly silent for the explanation, chewing on the words and digesting them in bits and pieces until Sam finally trailed off with the last bit and he ws giving them man an intense look. "And my kin?"

"Well," Sam spread his gnarled hands. "Ya saw Aisling out there with yer own two eyes. Yer folks are too old ta fight with the First Levy, so's they'd probably be up at Dun Juniper. Yer older sisters? I can't say lad. I don't look at the rolls anymore and while yer eldest Moira fought with the Levy when you were gettin' close to ready for yer own test, and I can't say. Nor fer Meera, though I think she has spit out some pups in your absence. Yer ma or da would know better, or the Chief Herself Herself."

Running her tongue against the back of her teeth, she let Ro process for as long as she could. His family was the main reason they had come, to see how they were, if they were still alive, what they would think of his return, all of it. Sam didn't carry any particularly negative news, vague as he was, which meant that Dun Juniper was their next likely stop. Sidelong she glanced to Ro, just to see how he was faring. The action outside of the walls was a random thing, at least that's what she took from Sam's explanation. So in a low tone, she offered out a thought to the blonde. "We could still make it there today, if you want. Or... if we aren't needed here, that is." For the latter bit, she looked back to Sam for any sort of confirmation, her gaze steady, unwavering. The offer was there if he wished to take it.

"We can't stay." Romeo said to Addie as much as the Archer. To the latter, he clarified somewhat. "Though you'll get the full explanation if you head west with us, but there's only six days left for our trip. Unless your need is great," the big blonde spread his hands, "I would ask only enough guestright as it takes to clean up, get a little fresh food in us, and then press on for home. But I won't deny you my bow if you've a need, Master Aylward."

The old man shook his head. "Nah, boyo. You can kip on along. Aisling's little contingent was bound they way as well, so you can see them along ta Dun Juniper as ya see fit and they'll pass the word along to the Chief of what's happened 'ere. I imagine we'll get a few extra hands sent our way and I suppose I'll be meanderin' up that way in a few days fer the festivities. Guestright is yours then, for as long as ya need for you and your intended here. We can at least do some sandwiches before yer on your way."

They could have stayed, at least for a little while, or so said the look she gave to Ro. No matter the Choice she had made, she was still very much her mother's daughter which meant if help was needed and she could provide it, she would do so. Those she had helped on the field were by no means out of the woods yet and she couldn't help but wonder how the very last of them had fared once they got him inside. Her gaze lingered on Romeo for a few long moments only to turn back to Sam just as he declined anyways. An offer made, an offer declined, it was good enough for her. "Thank you, Sir." She let her shoulders relax slightly, running through a checklist in her mind of just what they needed to do before they left again. It wasn't much, thankfully, but it was still something. Her chin dipped, inclining her head to the man to acknowledge his declination. "We'll wanna see to the horses.," she told her fiancé. "I ran Brownie," such a creative impromptu name for her steed, "pretty hard getting to you, I'd hate to push 'em too much."

"The horses first," he agreed readily. "Some fresh fodder and oats and a little rest while we wash off the blood and the trail. Get fed ourselves." There was a long pause, filled with a few clipped pieces of casual conversation that gave Addie and Ro time to finish their beers, before rising from the table. Sam was given a warm clasp of the hand before he opened the door for his fiance.

Seeing to the horses didn't take long and with the help of one of the Dun's crofters the horses were soon set to straight before a pretty young blonde girl, barely a woman yet, was leading the pair out to one of Fairfax's closer bathhouses. The MacKenzie's weren't much on modesty, but the young couple were left to their own devices, where Ro leaned against the door to blow out a heavy breath. "War..."

Unfamiliar as the Dun may have been, she stuck tight to Ro as often as possible. That was the case still in the bathhouse where she washed away the muck of the day as best as she could. It was there that her hand found the outside of Ro's arm, the curl of her fingers soothing as she stroked along his bicep. "The tail end of it, it sounds like. Whoever it is is on their back foot... it sounds like your people are well on their way to eliminating it as a threat. We just had some fortuitous timing showing up when we did, that's all."

"Yeah," he echoed her sentiment with little more than that word and was eventually coaxed into joining her. It didn't taking much doing, the getting cleaned up but the bigger man had decided to take his time with in. They had somewhere special to be and while they still be bringing the smell of the trail with them, Romeo was determined to battle as much of it away as possible.

This was his homecoming, after all.
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 03, 2018 2:11 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

(Continued)

A short while later, with their typical shenanigans being so far from his mind, Romeo halted their exit from the bathouse long enough to ply Addie's mouth with a gentle, lingering kiss before ushering them back out into the humid summer Oregon air. His hand found hers soon after for a lacing of fingers for the return trip to the Aylward residence and the sandwiches that awaited them.

Shenanigans could wait for more stable locales after big events like a true reunion with his family could be had. Addie was content with that knowledge. After tucking the cuffs of her jeans into her boots, she straightened and took his hand. With the other, she raked through damp strands, winding them into a haphazard braid over one shoulder just for the sake of taming the wealth of purple-black. The sun didn't touch the highlights gold as it had once been but rather white instead, thin wisps that were too pale to be a natural lightening of the strands. An unfortunate side effect of her own Choice rite and a perpetual reminder that though she had the healer's touch, she was no longer a Weaver. It was likely why it had taken so much out of her when faced with the number of injured earlier in the day. As they walked, she leaned her head against his shoulder. Somber as it may have been, she was ever polite within the Archer's house, offering gratitude for the sandwiches and doing her best to not scarf them down too quickly.

Aisling was waiting for the couple on the Aylwards' porch, scraped up and with a fatigued posture where she leaned against the railing, but her eyes were alert and intensely focused on the approaching pair. Addie in particular was given the critical eye of a protective sister, as the tables they tended to turn with the tide of years, but her smile stretched into something more than sincere as she watched the way the couple subtly interacted on their approach. As the three of them returned to the kitchen table and wolfed down a the small but hearty repast, the young woman looked ready to burst with the string of questions and years worth of news she no doubt had, MacKenzies being quite the gossips and prattlers. Her self-control was admirable and, more than once, Romeo was caught grinning across the table at her as only as an amused older brother could. Rourke and the those from the troupe outside the gates still capable of walking met them outside as they said their goodbyes to Sam and his wife, who the big burly young blonde offered a more traditional thanks be as the High Priestess of the Dun and the Hearth Mistress of the house, and with the sun high in the sky they were finally departing.

Able hands were spied outside of the Dun's walls, clearing away the bodies of the attackers and working to right the wagons while archers kept a keen watch from atop the walls for further signs of trouble.

Addie was ever gracious and deferred politely to Ro when it came to most of the conversation. For all of her natural rock star charisma, she was obviously out of her element, reverting instead to sweet pizza girl instead. Though she didn't wither under Aisling's looks, she could instead only hope to win her over bit by bit with subtle charm and genuine smiles. Even a gushing compliment between girls when it came to the blonde's hair was traded to her credit. After all, Addie had always wanted a real sister. It seemed her younger counterpart would get such a thing but Addie was so much older than them that it would be hard to ever relate. Aisling on the other hand was a bit closer, making it easier to find similarities. A world apart, girls were still girls. When it was time to go, she did so in Ro's shadow, giving him more than plenty of time for goodbyes. At the gate, she couldn't help but frown. "Sure there's nothing else they need before we go?" She asked softly.

"Sam Aylward knows his business," Ro replied before either Rourke or Aisling could. "He may be older now, and entirely mortal, but I knew than man most of my life and he still makes me jump in ways your godmother never can." He gave her a light kiss on the mouth then and lifted her into the saddle, before pointing from his sister to his own mount. "Don't think I didn't see you limpin' a little, Aisling Masters MacKenzie. You're riding to Dun Juniper alongside Addie. Rourke, the others, and me can walk."

For a few long moments, the siblings had a staring contest, before the older finally one and the younger gave him a shove before helped her mount up. When then started down the road, westward on old Highway 20 once more, Romeo moved to Addie's other side and gave her calf a gentle touch. "She won't thank me for it, but ma will when she's not half-lame when he drag her in through the Gates of the Goddess." One eye winked up at her.

"I wasn't questioning that." She said quickly with a shake of her head. It wasn't that Addie doubted him, Ro or Sam either, but she was a worrier and more hands seldom hurt. With a nip at her bottom lip, she lifted a hand to concede defeat to her fiancé, quieting as he instead pulled the older brother card on Aisling. Her gaze scanned over the younger woman, though younger was hardly far. No more than a year at most younger than Addie, it was easy to tell the girl had seen plenty in her day. Maybe more than Addie, who knew. As Addie climbed up into her own saddle, she peered down at the bruiser and tried to restrain a smirk. "You're a good man, Ro. Let me know if you wanna trade off at any point." She wouldn't mind walking, her ass was sore.

"I can be a good boy sometimes." He gave her a crooked smile then cracked a rough yawn.

With some on foot, it slowed the pace of the horses but it was more likely to do the great beasts some good than not. Romeo chatted with Addie as they went, pointing out various little landmarks, little more than spots that looked the same as any other but came with a string of memories. Most of them were about boys being dumb and doing dumb things, as boys often did. Occasionally Aisling would interject with her own commentary, usually offering more colorful commentary on the tales or adding things that occurred in Ro's absence. Eventually the big blonde bruiser meandered to the other side of their party to engage in some conversation with Rourke, leaving the two riders to talk amongst themselves. It amounted to silence at first, with a few curious, furtive glances from Aisling before she finally piped up.

"How did you and Ro meet, Addie?"

Ro was an amenable tour guide though if you asked Addie, it was his sister's sidebar that amused her more than anything. See, that was the great part about siblings, they had those stories to hold against you for years, if not decades. And if Ro couldn't admit his stupidity at times, his sister sure would. But she was the younger one, Addie had yet to meet the two elder sisters. That... that had her apprehensive. It made her quiet, content to go along with the ride until Aisling spoke up. Addie jumped just slightly before slipping the young woman a diffident smile. "Ahh, the first handful of times it was mostly in passing... I made deliveries to the place he was working at. We didn't connect until about a year after we first met though.... heh... he stole my wallet actually. Nearly whooped him for it but... I dunno. It turned into hanging out after that and then, well, this."

"Wait," the younger woman stopped her with a lifted hand. "Stole your wallet? Uh, was he tryin' to be cute or is my brother some common thug?" It did seem to be a sudden cause for concern, causing Aisling to throw a look back towards Romeo.

"Definitely the former." She said quickly with a chuckle and a shake of her head. "I was being... less than pleasant. I think he figured it was a weird way to get me to give him the time of day, you know? He's a good man, I swear." Whoops.

"Oh. Ugh!" Aisling appeared relieved despite the exasperated sigh. "Boys are so stupid sometimes! Why can't they just tell you they're interested? Even when they become men, there's all the posturin' and prancin' around the subject! It's no surprise that Moira likes other girls. Would be much simpler that way."

"Right?" She grinned. Of course, it had been a bit of a cover for her fiancé, if only because the why behind it was far too long of a story to tell on the ride to Dun Juniper. Ro had been a bit of a street rat with a chip on his shoulder but all things considered, Addie didn't blame him. He did what he needed to get by and to look after his Rhydin family. Cutting her fellow rider a sidelong smile before glancing Ro's way, she nodded. "My best friend's like that, though she's still a bit neurotic at times. I figured it was just men that made us that way, you know?"

"Maybe so," the blonde girl conceded and then her mouth split in a grin that was too much like her brother's. "But if they know how to scratch all the right itches, they can be worth it... and more so than another girl, right and they can, by the Goddess. So our Romeo is a good man. Is he a good provider? Clearly he's touched by Lugh and the Morrigu both, by the Threefold Hecate, with as word and will in that fight. But has he found a good trade?"

"Ain't that the truth." Addie let out an earnest laugh, bobbing a nod of agreement even as her cheeks flushed. Not like she thought Aisling wanted to hear that about her brother, but still. Instead, the conversation turned instead to just how good of a man Ro was. It wasn't necessarily cause for pause so much as it was a moment to sort how to put things into perspective in a whole different world. "He's wonderful. Um trade... he's... a bit of a Jack of all trades, goes where he's needed, whenever he's needed. Though as of late, he's been looking after those less fortunate than him, the people who looked out for him when he left here. He's a good protector."

"We was always like that." The words were a little more somber and a touch wistful. Aisling turned a fond look back to her brother, who was deeply engaged in conversation with Rourke and unsuspecting, then wiped the back of her hand across her eyes. "We keened for him, wailed like the saddest banshees, we did. Mama was beside herself with grief but Da... Ro was... is the only son and... Neither one of you seems to be in a hurry to say where he's been all this time. It's gonna be quite the tale, isn't it?"

"He's a good testament to your family and your clan." Addie said gently, her smile pulling into something softer, more empathetic. Ahead of time, she and Ro had agreed to go slow when it came to explaining just what had happened to him. And without him up there with her, it meant a snail's crawl for what she would and wouldn't say. Her teeth slid against her bottom lip, raking at the fleshy pulp before releasing it. "It's mostly his story to tell. I've only know him for... about three years and he's been gone over ten, yeah? A lot of time to make up for but I promise we'll tell it all. He's just antsy to see the rest of you all, easier to tell it once."

"And less likely the story'll spread." The younger woman grimaced. "We're salt of the Earth, us MacKenzies, but things said to the wrong ears spread like wildfire amongst the clan. We're gossips, sure and we are, despite bein' loyal to friends and kin. So I imagine, knowin' that, Ro's got quite the story. Our folks will be sore, despite the relief, but at least mama will have a daughter-in-law to dote on. Expect lots of questions about grandbabies. Mama is like that. She helps with the Moon School, mostly the littlest children, and she loves it. Are you of the Old Faith or a cowan?"

"It's a wild story..." She admitted. Likely few would be able to believe it, even with their deeply entrenched beliefs in the supernatural. "I figure it'll spread regardless for that fact alone." There was a brief pause, once more to consider her answer. For all that she had tried to prepare, nothing quite compared to the real MacKenzie Inquisition. "We might wait a bit for kids... but eventually, we've talked about it. They're in the cards in due time. And um, I'm... not really from around here. So, more of the latter, but Ro says there's a lot of similarities between my people and yours. So there's that."

"You definitely don't look like you're from here," Aisling agreed. "Though with eyes like those, you make me wish I was Dragon sept instead of Coyote. People might gawk a little. Hells, I wanna gawk! But don't be surprised if the Dragon sept folk don't try to pry you away from your man, especially the fellas, right and they will. You seem like quite the catch, straight from a bard's tale."

There was a coy curl to the pull of her mouth as she glanced back and over at Ro. These poor people were in for a shock, weren't they. The flicker of her gaze shifted back to Aisling, her shoulders rising and falling with her wry smile. "They'd have a hell of a time with it, I think. But... I hate to say it, well no, I don't hate to say it. I gladly say it, I don't see anyone livin' up to him. But what about you, you and Rourke over there a thing or is there someone Ro's gonna wanna beat up when he finds out?"

"Rourke and I were a thing," she said and laughed. "He wants a Hearth Mistress to raise his babes but I'm far from ready to settle. We might lay with one another and worship the Lady together beneath the stars now and then, but I don't want to wear a torc just yet. Besides, the Bearkiller boys to the west are much more fun in the saddle." Romeo had warned his fiance that the Clan were... very open about sexuality, especially outside the bound of marriage.

"You're still young." Addie was agreeable to that much. There was no reason to settle down sooner than one was ready. That's how you ended up in situations like her mom had with her dad, unhappy and alone with a child while the kid's dad was off running around with your best friend. Whew, that was a mess. "Absolutely no reason to settle down when you're not ready. Life's way, way too short for that, trust me on that one." Coming from someone who looked on the young side of twenty-one, it was vaguely ironic.

"Earth must be fed someday." Aisling nodded, a little slice of wisdom that was less experience and more one of the many mantras of the MacKenzie clan's faith. "No, I will settle down someday. Just not today. Or tomorrow. But someday."

The conversation continued to trend back towards the more mundane things of life as they small group moved westward along the highway towards Dun Juniper. Eventually Romeo rejoined the ladies, walking between them and catching up with his youngest sister on a myriad of topics that were as superfluous in the grand scheme of the world as they were important to the big blonde man's heart. Aisling teased him for the trousers he wore instead of a kilt though there was a subtle approval in her expression that he was at least wearing a clan tartan. He teased her for what he had dubbed a boy's chest and then ducked away when she tried to swat him with the reins. It would have been quicker for the couple to have ridden alone to the dun or if the rest of them had been equipped with the bicycles the clan often used, but as the banter and conversation flowed, Ro seemed less inclined to hurry and savor the moment.

"Hear, hear." There was a nod of agreement for the words of wisdom as well as the girl's concession that she would settle. Just... someday. Addie could only be momentarily sad that they likely wouldn't be there to see it. Where Aisling couldn't catch Ro for his teasing, Addie made up for with a light poke of her foot, drawn from her stirrup with a laugh and a cheeky grin. Girls had to stick together after all. Still as Dun Juniper began to loom in the not so far distance, she found herself shifting slightly in her saddle. They had only run into a single one of Ro's close family at Fairfax, she could only imagine how it would go when faced with her mother, father, older sisters, and possibly nieces or nephews according to Aylward. Subtle tension limned the line of her shoulders and her grip on the reins, poised but not overly so, as if it might ready her for what was to come.

The closer they came to the place of his birth, the more anxious he became, though he tried to hide it. Apprehension and excitement played tug-o-war with his heart, causing him to reached up with a hand and rub at the back of his neck; he loosened his collar. With the walking-wounded-though-capable in their company, a warning blatt went up from a horn on the walls when they came over the rise and within sight of Dun Juniper. The capital of the Clan territory, it had walls of a style with Fairfax's, only twice as tall and with more towers jutting out in places. The great entryway into the heart of the clan boasted a pair of massive log doors that had been carved in the likeness of a great many gods, though most of them from the pagan Celtic pantheon. One of the large doors was open as the small company approached but there was an increasing number of archers rising along the walls.

Without technology or electricity, it wasn't as though Dun Fairfax could have called ahead to let Dun Juniper know they were coming. As such, Addie only hoped they didn't find themselves on the receiving end of trouble. At the very least, the land outside of the Dun was far more calm than it had been down the way at Fairfax, though Addie figured some of that was likely a hesitance to attack the aforementioned capital. It was brazen enough to go for Fairfax considering its proximity and she had no doubt that the sound of roars that had scared the attackers could have easily reached this far, though nowhere near as loudly. Her knuckles whitened with her grip on the reins, maintaining careful control over her steed to keep it within their small formation.

"Can't remember the last time I saw that many clansmen on the wall, " Ro murmured aside to the girls have loosing a low whistle.

"The Clan's no longer spoilin' for a fight," Aisling told them with an understanding nod, "but we're ready for one still, with a lot of room for a Threefold Return on the Prophet and what's left of the Boise Regulars. Or as ready as we can be with at least half of the First Levy gone east and north with Rudi." Romeo's own nod was a little more curt and as they drew up the last few dozen yards to the gates, he let his sister move forward to show that they were friendlies. "MacKenzies! Tis more good news than bad that I bring to the Chief, here at the dusk of the Prophet's War! A small remnant of the CUT and Boise forces tried to put the walls of Dun Fairfax's walls to the torch as our small caravan tried to bring goods north for the upcomin' festival!"

The news produced a collective gasp from those within earshot that became a growl at this last of its breath. The young blonde woman's words were purple with a storyteller's drama, the sort that the younger generation of the Clan ate up with a spoon. "But victory was snatched from the jaws of defeat at a most crucial moment, when the Lord and Lady themselves saw fit to gift us with the return of one of our own, lonng thought moved onto the Summerlands! Mine own brother, Romeo Masters MacKenzie, and his lady fair came to out aid! The Prophet's men are dead and dyin' and us only a little worse for the wear, though the dirty details will be for the MacKenzie Herself Herself first!"

Another collective cry, this one exultant was muted somewhat by an equal number of curious murmurs that seemed to ripple back over the walls and down into the Dun. After another minute or two of talking to a very serious looking gate guard, the party was waved through and into the heart of Clan MacKenzie.
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 03, 2018 2:16 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

(Continued)

Lady Fair. That was enough for Addie to lower her chin slightly in hopes of concealing a little snicker. Lady and Fair were hardly words she would use to describe herself but her future sister-in-law seemed to have a penchant for colorful descriptions. Her songs were one thing but Addie wished she could weave a story even half as well as that. In time she would have to learn, if she wanted to have any hope as a Keeper. Though they primarily passed Asterian lore by song, the oral tradition was important in spoken word too. When they were finally given the signal, she exhaled a sigh of relief and looked to Ro to see how he was holding up as they entered.

Ro would have heartened his Lady Fair by telling her that there were certain oral traditions she was already a master at and that it was what made her his Keeper. He was funny like that sometimes. Her man didn't buckle beneath the weight of disbelief and skepticism that seemed to wash over them inside the walls. Instead, he lifted his chin and disarmed himself, placing his weapons in their holsters along his horse's saddle and fixed them all with an undaunted stare and a crooked smile. Murmurs rippled through the growing crowd.

"I'm sure many of you know me, knew me, when I was a lad here in the Dun." His own brogue was more often than not subdued, tempered into something subtle that only came back in bits and pieces. "I cannot give an accurate account of what took me away from hearth and kin, only a truthful one... but right now the story is for my kin and the Chief alone."

Something in the words quieted some of the commotion, until a woman's voice and form fought through the press of gawkers and came to the fore. She was closer to sixty that not, with plenty of silver mixed into the muted platinum of hair worn in a plait down the back of her airsaid colored in the Clan's plaid. Her mouth hung agape as she stared at the young man before her, shuffling steps, her hands reaching for his face the moment recognition set in. The shock of it all caused her to stagger and Ro lunged forward to catch her, pulling her into his thick arms.

"Merry Met, Ma..."

Shy of the gate, Addie had dismounted, taking her horse by its reins to lead it through with Ro, Rourke, and Aisling. Her smile was subtle but there, and though it didn't seem like Ro had his sister's penchant for storytelling, but Addie knew the truth. It would come out as soon as they were within less obvious company. Her grip on the reins was easy, her posture relaxed but tucked close to the horse's side as the crowd of lookers on came to see what all the hubbub was about. When another blur of silver-platinum came through the crowd, her smile grew and she looked over to Aisling to see if she could see his sister's reaction too. This. This is why she had gone through the trouble of getting Quinten to help. It was so worth it.

Most of what passed between mother and son after was lose beneath the din caused by the milling crowd, but there were smileds and tears and murmured words, then more of the former two when Aisling slipped out of her saddle to join them. Soon enough, there was a three way hug and a rush of mingled laughter, until Romeo broke up the little party to turn them towards Addie. He beckoned to her with a hand and a crooked smile, waiting for her approach before taking her hand.

"Acushla, this is my Ma... Juliet Masters MacKenzie. Mama, this is Adelaide Victoria Allen, Addie. Her sept is Dragon, if them gorgeous eyes didn't give the hint, and somehow I suckered her into findin' me lovable and she's gonna be my wife. Gonna join our family."

A few whispered words to the horse and a pat to its snout had her sure it would stay where she told it. With that she gently let go of the reins and stepped carefully over to Ro's side. Her hand slid into his, fingers lacing for a squeeze as she put on a smile for the woman. Deep breath in, she held it for a beat and then let it out in a rush of a grin and a quiet laugh, her free hand coming up to wipe at her eyes quickly. Blame Ro and Aisling and Juliet's reunion, it had her a little misty. "It's... wow. Merry met, ma'am. It's so good to meet you." And because where she came from, family hugged, she opened her free arm in offering.

It didn't take long at all for Addie to find herself dragged into three pairs of hugging arms in a sure sign that it was where she belonged. It was a perfect little Masters MacKenzie huddle, with more laughter and tears and the warmest of welcomes. The four of them were stilled locked up tight when a previously disappeared Rourke returned and loudly cleared his throat to get their attention. "The Chief is amidst business up at the lodge but wants to see the lot of you right away."

"Ro's told me so much about all of you, I'm so happy we finally get the chance to--" She cut herself off when Rourke returned, putting the kibosh on anything else she had to say with the inevitable. The Chief sounded ominous but considering everything Ro had told her of the MacKenzies, she doubted it would be nearly so scary as it seemed. So she eased out of hugging but held fast to Ro's hand, her fingers tightening subtly as she looked back to him. The smile she gave was nervous to say the least, but encouraging just the same.

"C' mon then," was Ro's response, along with a sober nod, only some of the enjoyment of the moment fading from a reunion paused to early. One hand slipped back into Addie's, the other into his mother's, with Aisling bringing up the rear as the crowds parted and they moved up towards the main lodge. Dun Juniper itself was a wonder of simplicity, with some farm field and stables within but otherwise dotted by less than a dozen freestanding log buildings. The rest of the large settlement's housing was built against the tall inside walls of the Dun, not unlike the familiar row housing in modern cities, only with a more rustic feel to it. Most of the area around the newcomers was already decorated for Lughnasadh, marking the beginning of the harvest season. A winding path led them up a hill, atop which sat a massive two-story log and timber lodge, surrounded on all sides by an inviting looking porch.

"And so the seas of curiosity part." She murmured just quiet enough for Ro and maybe his sister and mother to hear, her lips barely moving but curved with a touch of levity for an otherwise heavy moment. Her gaze swept over the lay of the land, drinking in the scale of it in comparison to Dun Fairfax. It kinda reminded her of the property the Gallows had moved out to, where Cooper had built a new house for them. Though Dunmovin' (ironic the similarities in name, you know) was a whole lot more technologically advanced, so Addie supposed that's where the similarities ended. In step with her fiance, she bumped her hip to his intermittently, just to remind him to breathe. This next bit was going to be... interesting, but she was at his side. She promised.

"For now." Ro chuffed a chuckle. Addie was content to bump his hip, but eventually his hand abandoned her own in favor of an arm slipped around her slim waist. He held her like that when they paused at the porch, allowing his mother and sister to ascend and enter ahead of him. The dusting of a kiss touched just beneath his fiance's ear before Ro let her up and into the great lodge where the Chief of the MacKenzie's dwelled. The great room was part mess hall for residents and traveler's alike, with long trestle tables and sturdy chairs, the walls bedecked with more carvings and the antlers of deer with a crescent moon between them. The found Juniper MacKenzie on the second floor standing at the head of a table with a handful of advisors. She was a small, slim woman in her mid-fifties, with emerald green eyes that still shined beneath hair that was still more fox red than gray. The smile she fixed the newcomers with was sincere but understandably guarded and she eventually rounded the table to draw closer. It was Romeo she fixed her gaze on first, looking him in the eyes even as her own took on an otherworldly cast, looking for something unspoken. She found it a few moments later and smiled all the wider, reaching out with small hands to gently clasp his arms above the elbow for a fond, matronly squeeze that spoke of familiarity without being too close.

"So it is Dun Juniper's own rascal Romeo, gone from our own Lord and Lady's sweet Earth to the place beyond Beyond." There was lilt to her brogue reminiscent of the Achille Isle of Ireland, a long practiced thing become really in the decades since the Change. There was knowledge in her words, an understanding in the broadest sense and only lacking in the fine detail. It didn't seem to phase the diminutive woman. "I imagine what we could tell you of your absence will pale in comparison to the tale you've on the tip of your tongue for us of your perceived death, your miraculous return, and all the years in between. And in the company of one of Dragon's own." She spared a look for Addie, wearing the same smile and a wink. "I've Seen, young man, but I think the story would suit all of us better, after you've introduced your companion and we've had food brought up."

As surprised as he was relieved, Ro brook into a crooked smile and reached for Addie again to hug her into his side. "Ah, Hell, Chief," he said to her and it was becoming more obvious that formality with authority figures amongst the Clan ebbed and flowed with the moment. "This beautiful woman with me is Addie. Her totem's obvious and she's a bard of immense talent, to boot. Has Oghma's honeyed tongue, my intended does."

Knowing not what they might find, Addie once more took her place, quietly deferential but wholly open, intentional in the way she carried herself to be sure she stayed open rather than closed off. It would be more than understandable that the MacKenzies would be wary of a man claiming to be Romeo Masters MacKenzie so long after the younger had gone missing. Addie thought it might be a little bit like if she were to return to her Nosgoth some day, not that such a thing would ever occur. Nosgoth was gone, she had only the here and now. For once though, Addie wasn't sad about that fact. Ro's joy in seeing his family once more had more than overshadowed any sort of lingering longing for a place she would never return to. Merely an afterthought, she pushed it away and instead smiled brightly, a hand offered out to the woman as Ro pulled her over. "Chief MacKenzie herself, merry met. It's a privilege to make your acquaintance."

After all, Ro had told her so much in preparation for their trip here, it was hard not to be at least a little intimidated by Juniper's presence. Even if she was just a willowy slip of a thing.

"Juniper," the woman corrected her with a martyred grin. "I prefer not to wear the mantle when I can get away with it and tonight, among other things, we're amongst kith and kin. Andy and Diana will have supper out soon, but I can have it brought upstairs so that we can all talk away from fey ears and gossiping tongues. Why don't we get you two settled in before then so, aye?"

She looked to Addie for the answer instead of Romeo. Women were the brains of most operations, after all.

"Juniper then." Addie repeated with a diffident grin, her chin lowering in sheepish deference but only for a few moments. In a way, Juniper reminded her of Raven, all warm smiles and welcoming presence. Presence. It was a hard thing to have and to have watched over an entire clan since the Change? This woman had to have it in spades. After a moment and with only a flicker of a look to Ro, she nodded. "I think that would be lovely. I know Ro's been itching to tell some stories and trust me when I say, they're far more agreeable on a full stomach."

"It's settled then." Juniper nodded and smiled. "We'll put the both of you up here for the night," and then she paused when Juliet started to protest. "Just for the night, as this is where we're like to be for a spell and then I imagine your family, those with us right now at least, will want to spirit you away to your home. Juliet, darling, why don't you and Aisling see the couple to the room at the end of the hall. We can let them freshen up and get settled and then join us for a meal after."

Romeo's mother gave the shorter woman a grateful smile, before moving to wide her arm through his, turning that smile Addie's way as she nudged them towards the door.

A night in the great lodge, how cool was that? Containing her excitement in favor of a more muted smile and bow of her head to the woman, she let Juliet and Aisling lead the way. When they were finally within the confines of the room at the end of the hall, Addie let out a quiet little laugh and turned back to Ro, her smile wide and her eyes bright. "We're here, we made it, no problem. What was that... whole little... thing..." Addie waved a hand in front of her face for emphasis, "with the Chief when you came in?"

There were more hugs and promises that the pair would meet his family back in the leader of the Clan's meeting room soon, before Ro turned into their lodgings for the evening. It was a modest sized room, with the double bed and a single dresser the old pieces of furniture, an old pre-Change mirror above the latter. The walls were decorated with paintings new and old, a beautiful handwoven rug stretching out to cover the floor before the bed.

"The Chief is the High Priestess for the whole Clan," he told her as he moved to sit on the edge of the bed, smiling up at her. "Goddess on Earth. A witch of strong salt. She has the Sight beyond sight and can divine things, work magicks upon people if necessary but she's always been loathe to do it. The Threefold Return and all."

"Whatever you do to others comes back to you threefold." Addie nodded, looming over him just long enough to lean down and take his hands in hers. Holding them, she bounced a little, her gaze panning quickly through the little room. It would be far more than adequate for the night, comfortable and homey. "We don't quite operate on it, but some of the elders talk of it. There was, ah, a bit of a divergence in the clan a couple generations back when it comes to such a methodology. I'm glad to see some still hold it above their other wants and needs."

"Yeah. You'll see precious few criminals amongst the MacKenzies. Most of them just involve flared tempers and not real malicious intent. Not like the folk from the PPA to the north. Back before the War of the Eye, their works were all slaves." Leaning towards her, he pressed his mouth to the back of her knuckled, kissing them gently. "I must've done somethin' very good in my life."

"I could say the same." She said softly, her smile growing fond as his lips met her skin. "But you? You've done a lot of good. Just ask anyone from the Hollows or... ask me. I'd say you have. You've... looked out for me when I wasn't good at looking out for myself... made me face the worst of myself for the sake of getting better... held me when I thought I might give in to those things... brought unimaginable love and light and laughter into my life for two years now and I know you're only gonna gimme more over the next forever."

"You've been worth every moment, Pizza Girl." He smiled up at her crookedly and drew her into a tight hug, pressing the side of his face against her taut stomach. Romeo clung to her with the fiercest of needs, reluctant to let her for for long minutes.

She wrapped her arms around him as he pulled her close, her hips swaying side to side gently as if to rock him. It wasn't like he was upset but old habits died hard. Her hand ran up and down his back, giving him the silence for a few moments before quietly piping up once more. "Think we oughta be heading back? I think everyone's got a lot of questions and we still haven't seen your dad and other sisters."

"Not yet," he told her with a quiet rumble. "Come here and lay with me for a few minutes. I promise I'll behave. I just wanna hold you." Ro turned his face to kiss her stomach through her clothes, a gesture that was gentle and sweet and lacking in any sort of lusty guile, before he scooted back onto the bed and tugged her with him. Before long, they were spooned together on the small bed, his nose buried behind her ear while he held her.

"Ohhhhh I suppose." She teased, giggling as he pulled her up onto the bed with him. In truth she didn't mind having a few minutes to simply breathe. Nestling in against him like a puzzle piece, she settled her head down upon the pillow with a contented sigh. "Also... I'm trying really hard not to wiggle my butt right now... but baby, it's tough."

"No," he grinned against her ear. "It's curvy and bouncy and very fun to play with." Moments like those are what made them work as well as they did, even as a young couple. Despite their voracious appetites for one another, Romeo and Addie were two very different people who shared a few of the same passions (other than one another), but there was always playful banter and meaningful conversation. It really did work.

"Pft, you cad. I meant it's difficult not to wiggle like this." For emphasis, she wriggling and pressed back against him. But only for a moment or two because she didn't want to really start something when they a) had no time to finish and b) were within the Chief's house with so many unanswered questions.

"Uh huh." Ro rumbled against her skin and then squeezed her tighter. They stayed like that for a few minutes long, too short a time by the blonde man's estimation, but it was with eventual reluctance that he got them both to their feet, slipping his bigger hand around hers. "I guess it's time to go try to be a storyteller."

She hemmed and hawed, dragging her proverbial feet when he pulled her back up. When he finally got her up, she wrapped her arms around him for a tight squeeze before relenting in favor of a hand in his. "You'll do wonderfully. I'll be right beside you all the while and if you need me to, I can fill in whatever. I love you."

"I love you." He kissed the tip of her nose and smiled crookedly. "And away we go..."

Romeo led her from the room.
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 03, 2018 2:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

(Continued)

"...and with Addie's grandfather's help, that's how we arrived a half day's march from Dun Fairfax," Romeo finished the story almost three hours later with a slump of his shoulders and a long pull from his tankard. The room the Chief used to conduct business with her closest advisors wasn't terribly full; Romeo had been seated at one end of the modest table with Addie adjacent to his left with his mother and sister next to her, with three of the Lady Juniper's closest friends and advisors sitting opposite them. Sam Aylward had arrived at the end of their meal and sat adjacent on his right. Judy Barstow MacKenzie, the Dun's head medico, sat closest to Juniper herself and Dennis Martin MacKenzie sat between Judy and Sam.

All had listened to the beginning of his tale with more skepticism than wonder, but as the young man's story unfolded and he responded to questions in concise detail, nearly every elder in the room paled and stoof transfixed in rapt fascination. Only Aisling seemed to be confused by some of the wonder of which her brother spoke, having been born well after the Change and never having grown up with things such as cars and televisions. The rest had all been adults before that terrible day on March 17th, 1998, and while decades removed from the event, the conviction with which Ro spoke produced more than one wistful look. The amemities of modern life were somewhat easy to swallow with those familiar with it but when he spoke of all the myth and magic that co-existed with it, only Juniper, Judy and Aisling seemed to take it for true without hesitation, two of them being the truest of believers by hard won faith and the last being too young to believe anything but.

"If the Lady Juniper didn't seem so apt to accept this for gospel," Sam Aylward growled, "I'd called this the maddest kinda rubbish. But I suppose I've seen enough of late ta be willin' ta keep an open mind. Hell, boyo, that's one helluva adventure to start at that age... But the fire... we all saws you burned."

With a grimace, Romeo stood from his seat, cutting a fleeting look towards Addie and his mother before unpinning his tartan and lifting his shirt. The scarred tissue from that night in the burning barn had faded to something ugly instead of grotesque but it was impossible to deny he'd been touched by a raging inferno and at a young age. The Archer whistled and Juliet blanched, leaving the others to do little more than wince silently before Juniper gestured for him to cover up. The moment had created an awkward silence in the room that the Chief was all to ready to break up when she turned her attention to Addie.

"And what of your peoples, Addie? Ro sings your praises with his whole heart, right and he does, but I would be enchanted if you'd tell us more about you, if it doesn't make you uncomfortable. I feel that maybe he left some things out and, even if he didn't, I would still be honored to know you better, what with you being the catalyst that brought our young clansman home."

"Muja," Addie said gently, extending a hand with a beckoning curl of her fingers to Ro to prompt him to sit back down. While they had never bothered her, she could feel the awkward discomfort of the others as they took in the evidence of Ro's injury. When he sat once more, she gave him a squeeze with a loop of her arm around his shoulder before freeing him and turning her gaze back to Juniper. A deep breath in, put on the spot as she was, she tipped her head to one side to decide just what to say. "I... am also not a native to Rhydin... at least not the Rhydin Ro ended up in. Um, my father's homeland, my land, is gone... lost to death and shadow incarnate. My mother's Rhydinian though... not from the city. She hails from a place called Amberhelm where my grandfather resides. He's the elder mage of our clan. My mother has the gift too, though she's chosen to use it a little differently, so she's a healer at a little hospital in the city. My father was um..." Addie paused to chuckle to herself, one finger coming up to indicate her eyes, "Of rather prolific dragon stock. I came to Rhydin when I was seventeen which was... well, a story not terribly different from Romeo's or any other surprise arrival in the city. So... my family's small these days, but close... Ro's my people, my bandmates too. Don't need too much beyond that, you know?"

The assembled listened with rapt attention. If Romeo's story had convinced them of the validity of his claim, then it was Addie's that hooked them in. Sam Aylward had attested to the feats the pair had accomplished in relieving Dun Fairfax of its trouble and couldn't even come up with a rational explanation for the accounts, so a wonderous working of magic it must have been. And there was no denying the young woman's heritage when they saw her eyes, as wonderous as they were exotic. In the end, it produced another profound silence that lingered longer than the last before Aisling broke it by blurting out. "Da's gonna *** kittens!"

It only made Ro grimace again, but Juliet was smiling and clearly fighting off a fresh bout of tears as she stared at her son. Once again, it was Juniper who interjected. "It sounds as though you'll be departing after the Harvest Fesitval then, though we'll consider it a blessing from the Lord and the Lady that we'll be able to host you there. Sad to say, it won't be as bursting at the seems as it is most years, with many from the First Levy off to the east with Rudi chasing the remnants of the Prophet's army but we'll be blessed just the same. Just fewer handfastings, a touch less wildness, but many more prayers for those who can't be here."

"Though we have but a week... I can't make promises, but should all go well, I'd like, with your blessing, to see if perhaps we can come back again. My home is... long gone. If Ro has a way to visit, even sparingly, I'd love for him to be able to." She spoke up softly once the giggles at Aisling's proclamation subsided, her teeth nipping at the inside of her lip. A furtive glance cut aside to Ro. She knew he hadn't wanted to get his hopes up for such a thing but it was important to Addie that if it could be done, that it was done to welcoming arms when they did. To the side her hand reached for his. "It's been some time since I've been able to see a proper Lúnasa celebration... Ro was excited to time our trip for it."

Ro squeezed her hand and nodded his agreement before the Chief continued on. "Most of the Festival will take place north of us in Sutterdown, it's the closest thing to a real city in MacKenzie holdings and every year they try to convince me to make it our capital instead of Dun Juniper." She rolled her eyes to the heavens at that. "But we oft return here to the nemed, our original one, to celebrate Lughnasadh itself and we welcome you with open arms for both. And if the future holds a return for you, my darlings, then for Juliet's sake... bring some fresh grandbabies for her, aye?"

The diminutive woman winked at Ro, who actually colored around his cheeks.

Addie let out an earnest laugh though her cheeks too pinked. "In time, of course. I'm just twenty-one myself but, uh," she glanced aside to Ro and smiled, "certainly planning on it eventually. After... yeah. "

It was cause for pause, the thought that came to mind but she held it back for the time being rather than blindside Ro with it in front of his family and clanspeople.

"Someday," the blonde brusier agreed, his crooked smile growing for a sudden ribald thought. "But 'til then, practice makes perfect and the Goddess does need regular worship."

The joke set the whole room to laughing, though Sam Aylward rolled his eyes through a wry smile. It wasn't long after that their little meeting began to disband, later into the night as it had become. Romeo wished his sister good night with more hugs and kisses, an affection they shared with Addie as well before departing. Juniper waved them off with a knowing smile, which left the pair of them to tread back down the hallway to find their rest.
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 03, 2018 10:37 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

July 28th, 2018

The day that followed came early and dawned bright. Sleeping was a luxury amongst the Clan, are lost in necessity as farmers, hunters, and tradesmen of every calling. The lovebirds had been offered some small respite in the fact that they hadn't been roused before or at dawn, put it wasn't entirely long after that when someone came to knock on the door and ask after Romeo and Addie. Breakfast was waiting on the honored guests and spread out across the table in grand fashion:: scrambled eggs, thick cuts of well-cured bacon and fresh sausage, thick crusty bread with fresh churned butter and jam, and various fruits. Real coffee was a rarity, long since replaced with chicory which was a passable substitute. The pleasant noise of conversation and laughter surrounded them during their repast and while they were honored guests by the Chief's words, those around them treated them as family. When the eating was done, they were collected by Juliet and Aisling again for thorough tour of the Dun, for the sake of Ro's nostalgia and Addie's better understanding. The Dun was a small hamlet by Rhy'din's standards but a busy one teeming with life and the flow of humanity, even with so many still off to the war. Hawkers still sold their wares in a small marketplace amongst buildings that housed trades, though many were preparing to depart for the big to-do in Sutterdown, but as they moved, Addie was given a glimpse into the inner workings of things, the blend of old world living and modern science that still worked to make the Dun operate to everyone's benefit.

The tour ended at the Jug 'n' Loaf, one of the two tavern-inn's within the walls of the Dun, and the family business-home of the Masters MacKenzies. It was a modestly sized but welcoming building of two stories that stretched a wider than most of the buildings set against the inside wall of the Clan's capital, doing a brisk business as traveler's passed through on their way north for the Festival. With both of his older sisters and father up at Sutterdown, it was being managed by an unfamiliar face, whom his remaining family members stopped to catch up with as Ro led Addie up the stairs. Along one side, at the hall's end, he led her to a small room, one completely unoccupied and very plain. It was worth a wan smiled as he gestured to it, as words failed him.

Though hardly a morning person, trips like this were always an exception for Addie. It had been the case in Amberhelm and even on their trip to Disney, so she roused with ease, murmuring a sweet promise into Ro's neck for later recall. Breakfast was hearty and more than filling, the company kind and easy to talk to. That said, she was definitely missing coffee. Hand in hand, she kept pace and soaked up every ounce of the Dun as they made their way through. Just as Ro had promised, the similarities between Dun Juniper and Amberhelm had her wistfully nostalgia but all too easily able to find comfort in the place. If it weren't for the whole lack of technology and power and gunpowder related weaponry, she could have easily seen them living there. She climbed the stairs in his wake, her smile soft and the squeeze of her hand gentle on his. It wasn't often that her bruiser was rendered wordless, so she took the lead and stepped further inside before turning to face him to take his other hand as well. "It's home, yeah?"

"My room," he murmured. "Stuff's all gone, of course, because even though they keened for me, it would be impractical to turn a usable space like this into a shrine for the dead. But this was home, yeah." He turned to look at her and smiled, a touch wistful as he squeezed her hands.

"And they seem nothing if not practical." She said gently, letting his hands go to reach up and loop them around his neck. Hugging him to her, she kissed his forehead twice before leaning back and taking a trio of steps backward from him. "So help me imagine it. What did little Romeo Masters MacKenzie do with his time when it was full of stuff? Where was your bed? What else did you have? I imagine posters of scantily clad women were in short supply, eh?" Levity, she hoped. She grinned and spread her arms wide to gesture.

"Bed was in the corner," he told her with a chuckle. "With a trunk underneath with a few sets of clothes. My fiddle. My bow. My bagpipes. When I wasn't helpin' ma and da with the inn, I was playin' with one of those or chasin' around with the other boys, findin' mischief until someone older and wiser would decide we had too much time on our hands and put us to work. Plus there was moon school. And darlin', who needs posters of half naked women when you live with the Clan? Most of us go naked enough when it's time to worship. We are dirty heathens afterall."

"This corner or this corner?" After all, she told him to help her imagine it. She hopped gently from one side of the room to the other to indicate each corner, turning a circle for him as he talked. "Mom says that's how Amberhelm was. She haaaaaaaaated it. I don't think it would've been too bad. But I figured scantily clad leaves something up to the imagination unlike nudies where you've got it all in your face. Plus seein' fam in the buff has to be a enough to desensitize you a bit." Settling her hands to her hips, she bit at her lip and looked around. "I like this though, it's cozy. Back, um... back home after my mom died, my dad and I moved in with my grandpa. He didn't wanna stay in the dojo anymore... thought it wasn't safe. But the castle was... well, it was a *** castle. Big and empty despite the family being there. Big family but... this?" She jutted her chin toward the door, "This is a real family."

"That corner," he pointed and smiled crookedly for all of her bouncing. "And yeah, it's pretty desensitizing in some ways. I mean, when you're bein' all religious and ***, it doesn't pay to get a boner over some girl when your ma and sisters are standing five feet away. The weirdness of that alone makes a dick wither. But hey, I imagine some of those girls would notice me now if I was all naked up at the nemed." His crooked smile became a grin and he winked, before Addie started talking about her home. He caught her up in his arms again some moments later to give her a squeeze. "It is family. But you're my family now too. Even if we hadn't come back here, I could still have lived the happiest life imaginable with you."

"Dick wither... that's... a colorful way to put it." She let out a laugh in spite of herself, pressing against him with a smile. Her hips swayed, prompting him to sway with her in a little dance. "It is, and you're mine. Like Mich and Miz. And even Raven and Henry. But you know? I want this to be my family too. I do. Not like... begrudgingly solely for marrying in to the family... but like... for real. I like them. A lot."

"You're doin' great so far, acushla." He bumped his forehead gently to hers, looking into her eyes. "Ma and Aisling seems as taken with you as they're happy to see me, not that I can blame them. And by to night or tomorrow, we'll see da and Moira and Meera and then we'll all be one big happy family. It'll be a good five days."

Her smile softened and the little bobble of her head indicated a nod without pulling away from him. "I'm looking forward to it. It's not quite complete without them yet."

A few moments of silence stretched before she spoke up again. "Hey Ro?"

"We'll squeeze every bit of enjoyment out of it," he agreed with her. He lifted his mouth to kiss her forehead and then lowered it to kiss her cheek before the silence was broken by her words. "Hmm?"

"What if..." She nibbled at her bottom lip and peered up at him. Her fingers grazed against the back of his neck before she found her phrasing. "What if we got handfasted... while we're here? At Lughnasadh with your family." It wasn't as though the MacKenzie clan was likely to be able to make it to Rhydin for their wedding, whenever it was. It was a thought that had been growing in the back of Addie's mind. "We don't have to tell anyone when we get back... 'cept maybe the girls. Still have the big to do later, you know?"

Blonde brows shot up at the notion, his hands gliding down over her arms to her elbows and using the grip to draw her back. His own gaze found hers again, surprised by the suggestion but not at all disappointed as he made a thorough study of what he found behind those exotic blues. His mouth quivered as he held back a smile. "I think that... my ma and sisters would be over the moon... and that I would love nothin' more than to kneel before the altar of the Goddess in my home nemed with you. You sure you're up to the rigors of a MacKenzie wedding?"

His smile was tentative, her gaze lifted to his through a veil of dark lashes. But he was on the verge of smiling, which was a good thing, so she eased her chin up and smiled a bit wider. "They're my family too, right? It can't be any worse then a full Asterian rite. Henry's lucky m'mom didn't ask him to go through the whole thing. It's like a three or four day ordeal. But yes. I'm sure."

"Then yes," he told her and then pressed a warm kiss to her mouth, rumbling quiet works against her lips. "I will take your for my handfasted wife at Lughnasadh. And I will tickled the Goddess' ears with my vows and promises to you, Addie Allen. We'll tell everyone when we meet up with the rest of the family in Sutterdown. Until then..."

Ro pushed the door to the room shut, locking them in.

"You know, I never did get to bring a girl up here..."
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 03, 2018 10:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

(Continued)

Two hours and a trip to the bathhouse later, Romeo and Addie had found themselves sitting in the back of a wagon being driven by his younger sister, his mouth sitting beside and happily rambling away at the two over her shoulder. Along with the Chief and her retinue, the group was northward bound to the Sutterdown, with the promise of arrival at the gates before sundown. More that once, Juliet had reached over to gently pat her son or squeeze his shoulder, as if it were some subtle reminder that the young man was there in the flesh and that it was more than some long forgotten dream. He smiled his crooked a smile when she did, doing his best to fill in some of the blanks left out during the long session the night before. More often than not they talked of the little things, his job and his hobbies, and though it was they Masters MacKenzie women in attendance were already enamored with her, the big blonde bruiser never missed an opportunity to talk about Addie and some of the amazing things she was constantly up to.

His own wardrobe had been traded in for the homespun realness of the MacKenzie plaid, kilt and tartan worn over a light linsey-woolsey shirt that he had pushed up to his elbows against the warmth of the day, sans the hobnailed shoes and Scots bonnet. Instead he wore his own shoes, somewhat alien but far more comfortable for his feet. Once, when no one was looking, he had flashed the kilt up at Addie with a grin and a wink, before leaning comfortably again and never missing the beat in the conversation. "Addie has a house on a beach at the ocean. We're currently livin' there with her best friend, who's also a bard."

"As near to a sister as I've ever had." Addie hummed a little sound and bumped her shoulder to Ro's as if to confirm what he had said. Really she just wanted to touch him. Still wearing a lingering grin in the wake of his kilt flash, she nearly called him out on it but spared him the moment in front of his mother. He would owe her later for it. Against the mugginess of the damp Pacific Northwest, she donned a lightweight peasant blouse in white, belted around the middle with a modern touch from home. The rich mahogany shade of the leather matched well with the pleather breeches she wore tucked into her boots, the pants borrowed (or stolen) from her mother's closet. They were a little loose in the hips but fit well in the waist and thighs, so she didn't mind too much. "Michi's a talented bassist and songwriter. Hell of a businesswoman too, we wouldn't be where we are now if it weren't for her drive. We call the place our headquarters, hold band practice there and such, keep our pets there... Ro's got a growing arcade collection in the garage."

"Arcade?" Aisling looked over her shoulder curiously, the term lost on her Changeling ears. Ro just laughed and shook his head. "They're entertainment machines, Ais. They play those videogames the oldsters talk about when they're waxing nostalgic." He ducked when his mother reached back to swat at him, forcing him to lean more of his weight against Addie for a few moments. "I took a shine to them when I was still livin' on the streets of Rhy'din. Haven't been able to give the hobby up."

"He's got a knack for 'em. Real good at skee-ball. Who knew he could be so good at putting balls in holes." She said with a straight face as she looked over at Ro before offering out an explanation for Aisling. "Skee-balls got a long chute that you roll balls up, they go up off the lip and you have to try and get 'em into holes that give you points. He won me a pretty cute stuffed lion awhile back just playin' that game."

"Of course it would be a lion," Aisling scoffed but it was good-natured. "A coyote would be more snuggly."

Romeo made a rude gesture behind her back and then threw his arm around Addie's shoulders, leaning into to kiss under her jaw. "Lion's are more fierce of course. Duh. Even dragons're better than skinny little coyotes."

"I bet both would be wonderful. All stuffed animals are lovely, I think." The debate settled in her mind, she swatted at Ro's hand for his gesture, giggling all the while. Her eyes, marked by those draconic slits, rolled his way. "Ro's got a wee little stuffed dragon, you know. He snuggles it when I'm on tour."

Oh that grin. She was going to pay for that later, she was sure. But whatever.

"I do love stuffed dragons," he admitted blithely.

The rest of the day went on in much the same fashion, with little bits of post-Change history pointed out at various spots on the journey north to Sutterdown. At one point the Romeo had hunkered down to nap in the noonday sun, laying his head in Addie's lap and leaving the conversation to her and his family. Half that time was spent awake with his eyes closed, just listening to the three women talk on various topics and get better acquainted. After all, they were going to be her family now to and he wasn't one to steal words that were better spent between the others. By the time the sun started to drift lower in the west, he was sitting up again resuming his possessive hold on the blue-eyed beauty and soaking up a companionable silence. They reached Sutterdown with some light left in the sky as the sun shone half over the treetops at the arrival of the evening. With walls as high as Dun Juniper's and its much larger gates wide open to incoming travelers, Sutterdown looked much more familiar to a real town, easily five times or more the size of the Clan's capital and with many more pre-Change buildings still standing and in active use. The great wood gates had been carved in the likeness of Apollo and Aphrodite, with everything else bedecked with beautiful harvest colores and the sign of revelry to come.

Addie found her company more than agreeable and as such, let Ro sleep for as long as he wanted, her fingers raking through his hair and over his scalp accordingly. It was her turn to lean into him when he awoke and as Sutterdown began to loom, she took it all in, ever so slightly slackjawed. This was much, much larger than Dun Juniper. Maybe bigger than she thought possible considering the Post-Change circumstances. As they neared the gates, she lifted her chin and asked. "Why those two? Normally you see the twins together, though we keep the sun and moon shrines on opposite edges of Amberhelm. The Blessed Mother's niece and nephew get a lot of praise, you know?" Not as much as Asteria herself or her daughter Hecate, but still. Addie was curious now.

"Pure opulence at the start." The voice and the snort were Juniper's, who rode up alongside the wagon as they approached the town. "Sutterdown was its own little community after the Change, with a handful of outlying farms some distance off. They were pretty much run by the mayor, the doctor, and a Christian priest, the latter of which having quite the polite, seething dislike for us pagans, bein' an affrontary to the Lord and all. We had so me good relations with those outlying farms though, with some trade of goods and exchange of labor. Eventually Portland's tyrant, Norman Armiger the bloody spalpeen, made his push to start takin' out territories. He endorse bandits raids in the like, most of which were hitting those outlying farms who looked to Sutterdown. Help ended up comin' from us and not them, so a few of those folks decided that the powers in Sutterdown had no rightful claim on their land and petitioned to join the Clan instead. Whipped the old reverend into quite a fury, right and it did, but there was little he could do. Eventually, the Protector's men-at-arms looked to just take Sutterdown by force... but once again, we stepped in to lend out bows and warcloaks to aid. The dear old reverend, rest his soul, fought as fiercely as the next to protect his flock, but died of a failed heart right as the battle ended.

It wasn't long after that when the whole of Sutterdown was petitioning to come under the Raven's wing, a decision that was for the good of all. Now, there's more than a few amibitious folk there and with all the hard times of the Change, anyone and everyone was looking for a piece of the Divine to cling to, especially if it means survival of them and theirs and a full belly. Pretty soon, the good great many of them were lookin' to be initiated into the Secrets. Sure, there was still Christians in Clan's territory, all faiths are welcome, but a good many former Christians or unbelievers came to us that first year. Dedicating Sutterdown to Foam-born Aphrodite and Sun-born Apollo were just a matter of flash and gaudiness to both fit in and be a little more glamorous than most, though these days the dedication is sincere."

Juniper MacKenzie had a knack for storytelling, that much Addie was sure of. She listened with rapt attention, drinking it all in in much the same fascinated way she had everything else. The similarities always got her the hardest though, forcing her to reconcile here with home and home with here. "They never put much stock in Aphrodite back home but I always thought her softness was something to admire." It was hard to be weak when everyone around you was so strong. But to stay soft in the face of that was admirable, at least to her. "Gods know we've plenty of sun and moon worshippers in our ranks but our clan's always been inclined more toward Asteria's line, the Night Oracle and her daughter both. I'm sorry for all the questions, it's just... worlds apart and still so much the same, you know?"

"Maybe our meeting is providence, then." Juniper smiled and turned her gaze to the open gates. "There are many paths to the Divine, none of them entirely right or entirely wrong. It's all just in how we choose to worship. Look at the Bearkillers to our north and west. Half are Christians and half follow the Old Ways, mostly worshipping as asatru. They are a pragmatic folk, one and all, and don't let religion get in the way of what needs doin'. A very determined, hard hearted people, but truer friends and allies you'll never find. "

"Ro told me a bit about them on our way here. There's something to be said for good allies." She said with a soft smile offered out to the Clan's chief. As Sutterdown welcomed them, she squeezed Ro's thigh with a quick splay of her fingers before letting him go and moving up onto her knees to get a better look. It meant more family to meet, she may have been looking for blonde.

Romeo reached out to stroke at the small of her back as she took it all in, watching from over her shoulder and letting the returning memory of it all wash over him. Within thin and without the great walls of the town, dozens upon dozens of tents and pavilions had been set up for the occasion. Old friends and family reunited, hawkers peddled their wares, and any number of games were in play, from tests of skill to tests of strength or even cunning. Wandering musicians played and the delightful smells of food came from various booths they passed. More than one cat call was leveled Addie's way as they went, as men called out her beauty and promises of what they'd do with it if she were up for a real man, fading as the wagon rolled on and no one followed.

Cat calls were nothing new, she knew them well and patently ignored them with ease. It made devoting her attention to all the truly new sights quite easy. More than a few times, she flashed Ro a brilliant grin, giddy with excitement and itching to hop out of the wagon just for the sake of exploring it all. There would be plenty of time for that, she was sure, but damn she wanted to go now. At one point she leaned against him and mused. "I should've brought my guitar. Maybe we can borrow and play together at some point."

"Don't be surprised if the Chief asks you to," he told her against her ear. "I've been talkin' up how amazing you are and the Clan loves bards. Maybe tonight when we all take dinner together or soon after." The cat calls had drawn a stern look from the big blonde, but little more than that. For the moment, it was enough to be touching her. Not long after their arrival, a small delegation with an absurd amount of ceremony had hauled Juniper off, her being the one in charge. It left the Masters MacKenzie group and the few hangers on with them to move with slow progress across the city until pulling down a wide lane. Half way down was an inn with a large stable and Ro was quick to jump down from the side on their arrival, reaching for Addie as he did.

"Will you play with me?" She asked him softly. There was nothing dirty or lewd in the request. Addie simply had always enjoyed their impromptu music making sessions and it was something she wouldn't have minded sharing with his people. When the wagon finally slowed, she tried to get a gauge of just where they were but Ro's grabby hands were a more pressing concern. So with a careful hop, she bounced down into his reach long enough to kiss the corner of his mouth.

"Always." His smile was wide and certain, the kiss earning her a squeeze of his arms and a spin before he let her go. He glanced back over his shoulder to the inn. "If I'm guessing right, we'll be staying here. Da's probably sharin' a booth with some of Dennis or Brannigan's people, peddlin' food as they peddle their ale. I think ma's gonna want the family somewhere a little private when she breaks the news, so we could always wander for a bit if you want."

"Definite downside to no phones... no way to prepare ahead of time for something like this." She gave his arm a gentle brush of her fingers and followed it with a nod. "But yeah, do they need any help here first? I wouldn't mind walkin' after that. There's... wow... just so much stuff. I can't even with it all. Probably gonna end up taking back more than we came with..."

"We can stow our things in the room we're sharin' with Aisling and then head out." Ro nodded, pecking another kiss to her mouth before he stared pulling things from the wagon. Strong like a pack mule, he wasn't satisfied until he was laden down with bags and packs and staggering up the stairs towards their accommodations. It was there their things were left before a return trip saw him unloading some of what had been brought for the festival.

"Perf." She kissed him one more time and joined him in bringing things in from the wagon. By now means equal to his strength, she still carried her own, taking what she could and following single file in behind him until she could relieve herself of the first load. Addie wasn't afraid to pitch in, it was only polite after all. Plus the sooner they finished, the sooner they could go wander. "Where's a must see amongst all of this?"

"Usually the various food vendors," he grinned. "I was too young for the booze vendors, but there are games with prizes to be won too. It's somethin' like a fair in some places. Overpriced games with chintzy prizes."
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Addie MacKenzie
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 03, 2018 10:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

(Continued)

When at last they had relieved the wagon of its burden, Addie stepped back outside with a clap of her hands. "I am totally game to eat my weight in fair food. Buuuuut, that begs the question... am I going home with a chintzy prize won by my fair beau?"

Look at the lash bat, Ro. Look at it and try to say no.

"Your metabolism is hot." Romeo teased her with a crooked smile. One hand settled the backs of knuckled along her hip as he leaned in to kiss her temple. "And since when have I ever failed in winnin' you prizes? Name one time, hm? No, you'll get all the fair food you can stand and loaded down with enough homespun stuffies and trinkets for a whole new shelf. And for me, the glorious sight of a stuffed dragon."

"So hot it's on fire." She laughed. The girl was blessed with a freakishly generous metabolism. Thanks genetics, not everyone was so lucky. Stepping in against him, she teased a kiss or two to his jaw and stepped back with a grin, offering him her hand so they could set off. "I never said anything about you failing. More so just wondering if you wanted to. Know it seems kinda silly to go playin' games when your family's here and you haven't seen 'em in ages."

"I want to." It was a gentle reassurance, given with a squeeze before he nudged her towards the festivities. "Ma says dad is set up where he always his, with Meera and her man. Will have to find Moira at some point, but we'll get out time. I think ma wants to soften da up before we pop in. He's gettin' on in years and we don't wanna give him to hard a scare. So, we'll putter around and get you fed, heap some prizes on you, then check in with ma."

"I trust you." She kissed his cheek even as they walked, her boots kicking up minute clouds of dust with the bobbing little kicks she gave here and there. It really did feel like an open air market or fair, maybe one of those renaissance festivals she had read about. Though less renaissance, more... hmm, what was a good word for it. It wasn't primitive, there were still touches of the modern era, carried over from Pre-Change times. The more she thought about it, the more Addie decided that it was a thing all of its own, incomparable to anything she had ever experienced before. Lifting her chin, she sniffed at the air. "I'm pretty sure I smell turkey legs. If I smell turkey legs, I think I need one before we get too engrossed in games."

"And next it'll be meatpies and then berry tarts and cream," he laughed. "Sadly, no deep-fried everything here unless it's changed that much in ten-plus years." But soon Romeo found himself doling out some of the cash he had exchanged for, giving up the silver they'd brought to his mother in return for local currency. The former was still valuable and could be melted down later for reminting. Addie got her turkey leg and just the one, a massive thing that she was (more or less) forced to share when the big blonde stole a few bites after squeezing her ass as a distraction. It was paired well with a large tankard of Brannigan's Ale, which he dutifully held while she ate.

"Meatpies and tarts and... yes. All of that." Though she looked a little sad about the lack of deep fried things. That was right, it was hard to fire up a fryer and get oil hot enough without a proper heating source. Fire could only do so much. She got over it fairly quickly though when she had a giant turkey leg in hand, wrapped around the bone with parchment paper. Ro, bless his heart, only got a brief baring of her teeth in playful threat when he stole his bites, but he would assuredly be able to take more when she traded the leg for the tankard for a solid swallow of frothy ale. "How're you feelin' about seein' the rest of 'em?"

"Anxious." It was an easy confession to her, as all secrets had ceased to exist between them. "I mean, I'm happy... just anxious. It's been a long time and there's always that silly notion that someone might not be happy to see me. Sounds dumb but we both know the world is far from sunshine and rainbows."

"Understandable." She nodded, trading back the tankard for the turkey leg. It was divinity in fire-grilled meat form, a fact that was evidenced by the way she stripped each section clean bit by bit. Ro was given an even look, her smile soft but earnest. "Anyone who isn't happy to see you isn't someone I trust or want to be around. Your family loves you, I can't imagine they'll be anything less than as happy as your mum and Aisling were."

"Probably so." He took the tankard and drank deeply from it, panning his gaze away and across the busy festival crowd. The pair had attracted some curious looks, Ro for being an unfamiliar face in MacKenzie plaids and Addie for her beauty and the exotic nature of her gaze. Many of the Clan in attendance bore some sign of their sept totem. A knife hilt from antler for elk, a patch of fur along the scots bonnet for coyote or wolf, a spray of raven feathers. Only the dragon sept bore something more stylized, with great wyrms etched into tool leather belts and vests, or something of the like. Many of them gaped at her when close enough, especially when she and her fiance stopped long enough to take in some new, interesting sight at one of the booths. "It's just a weird feelin'. Everything feels the same and... still changed. You know?"

"Changed or Changed?" She said with a grin and a bob of her brows. It was a terrible joke but if there was one bad habit Addie had, it was her affinity for making light of bad situations at inopportune times. Still she moseyed along in step with Ro, trading turkey and ale, ale and turkey until they stopped to trash the bare bone (literally) remains of the leg for the sake of loading up on more snacks. She hadn't been kidding when she said she would eat her weight in fair food. Between the food and Ro and the various sights, it was easy enough to pass off the looks they got. Back home she got them for being recognized with the band. Here, well, it was different but the same methods of remaining blissfully unaware were the same. "Oh they've got little stuffies there. Are those handmade?"

"Hur hur hur." He pinched her and then finished off the contents of the tankard, abandoning it on a nearby table in passing. Ro had noticed the looks as well and, for the most part returned them with a smile and a wave, even when male eyes lingered overly long on his dark-haired companion. The pair shared a meat pie and then a lamb kabob, then another tankard of Brannigan's Special before treating on a fruit tart thick with heavy cream. It was all but finished when Addie noticed the stuffed animals at some of the nearby booths and grew excited. "Pretty much all of them, yeah. I don't think there's automation enough to do them any other way."

"That's so adorable... I think I need one." She mused with a bemused smile. Handmade crafts were a rarity in the modern age. Sure there were stalls and such peddling their wares in the market back home, or those that came to the New Moon Market in Amberhelm to trade and haggle with their creations, but by and large it was an automated era of mass production. Shooting him a grin over her shoulder, she bounced and took off ahead, long legged strides carrying her through the meandering throngs so she could get a closer look and see just what it would take to get her hands on one or three.

Or a dozen. The young woman already had enough to fill one wall of their bedroom and then some, as much from her own desire to have them as from his weakness to deny her. Romeo followed along at a more sedate pace, keeping easy track of her familiar form in the crowd as he continued to enjoy the ambient smells and sounds of it all. Soon enough he was sidling up to her with an arm around her waist, tracking to see what it was in particular that had caught her eye. There were stuffed toys of all kinds, from those one could win through feats of skill or luck, to those one could simply buy for a slightly heftier sum.

Addie was plenty tall, it was easy enough to find her in a crowd. Between the purple black hair, left in loose waves around her shoulders, and the white highlights that blended perfectly enough they were either natural or a damn good professional dye job, she stuck out like a sore thumb amongst the more natural blondes and browns and reds of those around her. She didn't mind though. She offered friendly smiles for those who looked her way, even the eyes that lingered a bit too long, though she went right back to perusing the stuffed squishy things instead of paying them any mind. Leaning over one table, she bit at her bottom lip to hide her glee. "That one's got button eyes, Ro. Look at it, isn't it cute?"

"This gonna be the first one?" He snorted a chuckle and gave her a pat before taking a step back. "Just do be one favor, acushla, and don't purchase more than I can carry. Outside that, there's nothin' I'll deny you while we're here." A nipping kiss was placed behind her ear before he murmured. "I'm gonna get us another tankard and a fresh snack. You start pickin' and I'll be back in a few."

"I think so..." She admitted with an unabashed grin. Addie was growing quite the prolific collection of stuffed things back home but few would be able to compare to those she brought home from this trip. Her hand curled against his hip before he left, raking her nails over the structured material there. "Hurry back before I go overboard." Bidding him a short term goodbye, he was given a pretty (and devilishly coy) smile as he went before she turned back and continued her studious selection. A little plush person with straw blonde yarn hair and blue button eyes. A tiger with squishy fangs and a soft tail. Even a little coyote with a comically wide sewn on smile.

In truth, she would go overboard with or without him. It wasn't a far walk to get them the big piece of honeyed pumpkin bread wrapped in a brown paper napkin and a homemade rootbeer, but the landscape was thick enough with people that getting there and back again took longer than he might have liked. It was in that time that a small collective of young man had made their way up to Addie, their leadering bumping into her accidentally on purpose.

"Oi! Well, excuse me, pretty miss." Of an age with her or about so, the young man was tall and athletic looking, with a narrow wait, broad shoulders, and the thick arms of an archer. His black hair was shoulder length and pulled back into a tail, with the long mustache and a chin beard that seemed to be popular amongst the younger generation. Slightly darker skin and tilted eyes hinted at asian roots and the wide belt at his waist had been etched in the likeness of a dragon. "What's a beauty, fair as the Summerlands, doin' wanderin' around alone without a friend?"

Cheesy pickup lines were the same, no matter where in the multiverse.

"Ah excuse you indeed." She chuckled, still in plenty high spirits thanks to the jovial mood of the fair. Straightening up, she took a step back out of the man's personal space, one hand moving her selected plushes to one side of the booth with a polite smile for the young woman watching from behind it. Gag inducing as the line may have been, Addie smiled regardless and looked past the man to see if she could spot her fiance's blonde mop coming through the crowd. No luck quite yet but she wasn't worried. Instead she held up the little blonde plushie to wiggle it at the man.

"I've got a friend right here, see?" The way the light caught the tips of her fingers could have been mistaken for the pointed edge of talons but like a trick of the light, it was a there and gone thing as she set the stuffed figure down. "No need to worry about me, I'm just fine. Thank you."

"I am Padraig MacKenzie," he introduced himself with something of a little bow, reaching for her hand in offer, "and my sept is Dragon. Must be what pulled me to those beautiful eyes. There are whispers in the streets about a foreign girl with the dragon in her veins and, sure as the Lord and Lady, here you are." With his other hand, he insinuated himself into her personal space by leaning it against the booth.

"Uhh... nice to meet you, Paddy. I'm Addie. Ha, I rhymed." She snorted but politely took the offered hand. When in Rome, you know? Do as the Romans do. But at the very least he wasn't being overtly obnoxious just yet so she patted the trio of plushies and kept her hand settled nearby. Those were hers and she would fight anyone that tried to take them away. "But I'm soon to be Addie Masters MacKenzie, myself. Not sure if the whispers mentioned that."

"Innkeeper Roland's daughters are both wed." Padraig said the words as he kissed the back of her hand, playing the part of the gentleman. "And I see no torc around you neck markin' you as promised or wed. Even then, soon isn't is, and you'd love my room at the Dragon Sept hall. We could worship the Goddess together." The grinned he offered her was attractive but stunted in his attempt at suave charm.

"Innkeeper Roland's got four children, two of whom aren't wed." She countered with a polite smile that didn't quite light up the azure of her eyes. As she withdrew her right hand, she covered an exaggerated yawn with her left, the white gold, diamond and sapphire set claddagh glimmering in the afternoon light on her left ring finger, the point of the heart facing away from her body to indicate an engagement. "Foreign as I may be, I'm certainly marked as promised. Though I'm flattered and appreciate the offer, I'll have to decline. Thank you though." With that, she turned away and set her sights on the remaining selection of plush creatures on the table.

"Roland's son is long dead, pretty lady, but if it's Aisling you're promised to, then I'm sure we can..." He had reached out to grab her arm and turn her back to the conversation, his compatriots sharing looks from wry amusement at his floundering to a growing discomfort. But before he could finish the suggestion, Padraig was pulled backwards and out of Addie's personal bubble.

"The lady's spoken for," came Romeo's voice, a little harder than it needed to be. Despite pulling the other man back, he was smiling but only just. "I think I can handle her from here, thanks."

She turned with the motion as he touched her once more, the placid smile having changed from polite deference to affronted anger. It was one thing to use the "Clumsy me" excuse to get a girl to talk to you. It was another to put your hands on her after she declined your advances. Her hand had curled into a fist but before she could follow through with a swing, Ro appeared and tugged Padraig out swinging distance. The darker boy was lucky for it too. Her hand relaxed, her gaze moving up to meet Romeo's. "Muja, I was just telling Paddy here about our upcoming wedding. You never told me some of your clansmen were deaf when a lass says no."

"And here I thought we were the well-mannered witches who didn't force ourselves on another." Ro still smiled but his gaze was dangerous, his shoulders rolling and his fists clenched. "You'd be smart not to draw the She-Dragon's wrath, boyos, for pretty and sweet as she smiles, the woman's got the heart of a Lion. So remember your manners, say your goodbyes, and walk away. "

For a few long moments, most of the young MacKenzies in Padraig's party paused as if to take the big blonde bruiser's measure, their would-be leader chief among them. In the end, it was something in the eyes that caused Padraig to give a curt nod to Ro and a murmured apology to Addie before backing up a few steps. One could almost seem him wilt when he finally turned to move off with the others. For his part, Ro continued to stare after him.

"No harm, no foul. All's forgiven. Goodbye boys." Addie said sweetly as they tucked tail and made their retreat. When they were finally gone, her shoulders sagged a bit and she turned back to Ro, her smile there but a little more muted than before. "No need to worry about them, babe. You've got... somethin' sweet. And," she sniffed, "sarsaparilla? Mmm gimme a bit and a sip and I'll show you what I found?"

Not prone to jealousy and rarely possessive, he still held an aura of a territorial predator for a few long moments before the sound of her voice brought him back. This time the smile touched his eyes and he was closing in to offer her the tribute of something sweet. "Ain't worried, acushla. Nothin' a good beating wouldn't have set right but right now it's all about stuffies for the future missus."

"Had that boy," because he was no man in Addie's eyes, "elected to try and touch me again, I don't think you would have had to worry about beating him up." Her grin lived once more and as he closed in, she split the difference and fell into his personal space with a wrap of a hand around the back of his neck, a lean up on her toes, and a firm press of her mouth to his. Pumpkin bread and a sweet drink could wait just a moment or two while she got a taste of him. When she was done, she was still somehow grinning. "Look at this little coyote. Think Aisling would like it? Or would that be totally lame? If so, I'll gladly take it. But there's also this tiger and this little guy. I think I saw a raven in here too."

"Mmm," he rumbled against her mouth, some small agreement that his intended could have whipped the other MacKenzie boy good. "But a man's a man and I still would've felt the need to defend your honor, even if you can whoop the whole lot of them. Nevermind that we MacKenzies are as equal opportunity as a people get. Still, such a sweet and public kiss is probably chappin' his ass more than the beatin' would, so we'll call it good. Finish your snack and we can get as many stuffies as you want. You can pay me for them later."

"Oh well if that's the case I'll just have to kiss you more often. The humanity, such a shame, terrible, horrible thing." She gave him a drawn out sigh and kissed him on the lips one more time. The pumpkin bread was delectable, possibly even better than the turkey leg, and thusly she devoured it greedily, sparing bites here and there for her fiance. The root beer was some of the best she'd ever had and it was then that she realized she likely had never had homemade root beer. That would need to be remedied when they got home, she thought. And as she washed down the last of it, she picked out no less than half a dozen small stuffed things and let Ro play the gentleman by paying for them. As she tucked one away to poke out of her back pocket, she let him handle the others before scanning the crowd. "Could've sworn I saw your mum over there."

He took the kiss happily and then another besides after paying for her treasures, allowing the vendor to stuff them into a cloth bag for him to ease the burden before Addie's revelation drew him back around. "We're not too far from the place where Brannigan's folk and da set up. We can always filter in nice and slow, try to meet up with ma or Ais to figure out how we're gonna do this."

"Circle like sharks? Or maybe ghosts. Too spooky." She wiggled her fingers at him, bumping her hip to his and turning them left instead of straight to where she had spotted her future mother in law. There was still plenty to see, games to play, food to eat. Addie didn't mind taking her tip to get there, especially with the imminent prospect of meeting Ro's older sisters and his father. That was scarier than ghosts. "It'll be a shock to the system. Probably for all of you. But like before, it'll all be good. So in the mean time, what's your favorite game here? What started the Arcade Fiend, Romeo MacKenzie?"

"Cornhole," he told her with a chuckle. "It's like skeeball but with more tossin' and less rollin'. Videogames were a myth for us Changelings." Addie was led to a game not far off. It was one she might have been at least somewhat familiar with. Palmable sandbags or balls were tossed across a distance into holes that were labeled for various points. Certain levels of points earned a various number of prizes, from free drinks to stuffed animals and other trinkets and treats.

"That's... that's a really unfortunate name." She said with a laugh though she wasn't overtly familiar with it until they made it to the booth. As they stepped up, she leaned into him and hummed a contemplative sound. "So it's like beanbag toss. Okay. Think you've still got it then? We could make a competition of it, both of us can try. Winner gets to pick the prize, how 'bout that?"

"Babe, I could Top Score this game with a blindfold." Romeo didn't brag much or often, but the words were said with a sincere level of certainty. He grinned and pressed his face to the side of hers, slipping an arm around her middle as he glanced at the game. "You'd be better off just tellin' me which prize you want."

"You talk big, Romeo MacKenzie, so do it. I'll cover your eyes and we'll see if you suck." Her brows bobbed as he squeezed her against him. Their proximity was a constant thing, seldom did they part more than a few inches, but with a little spin, she unfurled from his grasp and stepped around behind him. Her hands grasped at his shoulders, rubbing out the muscles as she leaned in to kiss behind his ear. "And maybe I'll distract you a little bit. If you get top score, I'll be your prize; however you want me for as long as you want me. If you don't... I want... hmm. Those little wood roses, the blue and purple ones."

"But..." He rumbled as she eased in behind him and squeezed at his broad shoulders. "Don't I already get that?" An impish grin was crooked across his mouth, but he was palming money to hand to the game vendor. Enough for six tosses. He was eyeballing the three different holes, scored at 5, 10, and 30 points, each at a different placement on the tilted board that was about twenty or so feet away.

"I mean... if you wanna be cheeky about it, I can always withhold." She threatened with a snicker and a grin against his neck. Easing back, she gave him a few moments to see the layout before him, before her long fingers slipped up to cover his eyes, held tightly together so that he couldn't peek through the cracks. To make sure she kept his eyes covered, she pressed against his back, standing on her tip toes to peek over his shoulder, her mouth near his skin so that he could feel the warmth of each word she spoke. "So... I suppose don't miss."

"This feels like that scene in that Robin Hood movie with the guy from Dances With Wolves..." Ro shivered and then took a deep breath, trying to focus on the previous image with his mind's eye. There more deep breaths and then a sublime stillness came over the big blonde bruiser, drawing up he let one of the beanbags fly with a measured underhand toss.

Swoosh!

It went through the 30 Point hole.

"C'mon, it's way hotter than that." She giggled, keeping his eyes firmly covered but taking care not to restrict his other motions. Addie only sought to blind him, not limit his ability to show off. As he landed the first bag with ease, she smiled against his neck and murmured. "That's thirty... can you do it again?"

That had him stifling a cough and clearing his throat, a shiver running down his spine for the tease to his neck. More deep breaths followed, slower and steadier. Three more bags arched over the grass to the board, three more falling into the 30 Point hole, though the last was a near miss as it landed at the top of the board and slid down the incline to sink home. Ro made a face for the sound the third of made when it struck the board, grimacing at the potential miss.

True to her word, she made it as difficult as possible for him; between covering his eyes, and teasing his neck with soft words and brushed kisses. Three more brought his total to 120, though just narrowly. She clucked her tongue against the back of her teeth and hummed a little sound next to his ear. "That was a close call, baby... think you can still manage the last two?"

"Shhhh." He hushed her with a venomless hiss, grumbling softly as he fought to find his center again. Drawing in another deep breath, he sank the fifth bag through the 30 Point hole, leaving only one more for the perfect score. A slow roll of his shoulders and neck made tense muscles crackle softly, his head tipped back for a few moments to let the rising adrenaline settle.

"Make meeee." She countered, a grin ever present even if he couldn't see it. There was no way he didn't feel it. Swaying her hips against him, she nipped the side of his neck twice, moving down toward his shoulder where she settled her teeth gently. The fifth made its mark, leaving him one away from victory. It was then she struck, leaning up to murmur a lewd promise into his ear to see if it threw him off.

Adelaide was the worst best fiance ever. The toss went wide and slapped the tilted board three inches to the left of the 30 Point hole. It lingered there for a fraction of a moment before gravity dragged it down, where it hooked on the edge of the 10 Point hole precariously before falling in. At that throw, he was holding his breath.

As the bag hit the board and began sliding, she giggled and carefully peeled her fingers away from his eyes so he could see the tally. Her teeth found the edge of his ear lobe, her lips curled with amusement regardless. One hand fell away to get a handful of his backside before she stepped back and awaited the inevitable. "So... what was that about top scoring while blindfolded?"

The blonde bruiser grunted and reached around behind him to give her hip a hard pinch. "You're lucky I like your mouth on my skin, acushla, more than my ego and pride. That score's still better than most can do with their eyes open." He stuck his tongue out at her.

Tugging at his shoulder, she aimed to spin him around for the sake of kissing him firmly on the lips, the lithe line of her body pressed against his for a few long seconds. Maybe that would make up for it, at least a little bit. "It was brilliant, baby. But those pretty little roses were on the line and really, when it comes to pretty things for my dragon hoard," she winked, "sometimes I gotta fight dirty, you know?"

"Uh huh," he rumbled into her kiss, slipping his arms around her for a possessive squeeze before mumbling against her mouth. "Go collect your pretties, woman. Your spoils of conquest."

"Call me the cornhole conqueror? Actually... don't. That sounds absolutely awful." She snickered, leaning around him to tell the man working the game booth just what she wanted in exchange for Ro's high ranking showing. Considering his knack for skee-ball and other arcade games, it didn't really surprise her. Had she not distracted him, she was sure he would have done exactly as he claimed. Once she had the wooden roses neatly wrapped in a thin scrap of muslin cloth, she added it to the plushie bag and slid a hand into Ro's. "Where to?"

"Pretty sure that title's mine, regardless," he told her with a wry smile. His mouth found her neck for a rake of teeth when she collected her prizes but before long they were hand-in-hand again and he was tugging her away in the direction they had previously seen Juliet. "We've lollygagged long enough. I think it's time I saw my family and showed off the most amazing thing I own." There was a tease in his tone.
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 09, 2018 10:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

(Continued.)

Though there was still so much of the fair to see, she couldn't help but agree with his direction. Giving their arms a lighthearted swing, she hummed a little tune as they walked, bobbing her head in a nod. "You didn't bring your bow, so I guess they'll have to settle for seeing the girl that gave it to you instead." She stuck her tongue out at him, countering his tease blithely.

"The girl who gifted it is by far the greater prize," he laughed and gave her a nudge as they walked through the crowd. "She's taller, stronger, much more flexible, and there's nothing shoot straighter with." It was really hard to keep a straight face with those words, but Ro put forth a valiant effort when he said them.

"I dunno about stronger. That thing's got a hella high draw weight." Their laughter was an easy thing, spilling freely through the crowd as Ro led her closer and closer to their destination. As they walked, she kept an eye out for Juliet or Aisling, just in case she spotted them before he did. "Also, those were all really terrible innuendoes. I love it."

Aisling wasn't hard to find. It helped that the youngest of the Masters MacKenzie siblings was actively on the lookout for the young couple, spotting them before they were able to pick her out of the crowd. She flagged the down with a happy wave from where she lingered at the far corner of a busy booth that was serving copious amounts of ale and a wide variety of foods that seemed to be more than a little popular. She was the only familiar face, even when Ro looked beneath the shaded canopy of the serving booth's tent, but was quick to explain when the last few steps to her melted away so that she could put herself on his other arm.

"Ma's in the back with Da and Meera," she explained as she led them towards the back of the tent and a walled off area, the entrance of which was protected by a curtain. "Moira's on a trip north to drop supplies off for the supply trains running west for Artos but Da seems to think she'll be home in a few days or less. He's... not takin' the explanation of things very well. Thinks we're all off our rockers."

Arm in arm, she let Aisling reel them in, a cheerful smile for the young woman even though she didn't see any of the other blonde crowns she thought might denote the presence of the other Masters MacKenzies. The smile died bit by bit the more Ro's sister said until her lips were pressed into a fine line as her gaze slid up to seek Ro's expression. "It'll be okay... seeing is believing right?"

Romeo himself on nodded, a slight inclination of his chin that acknowledged that what they might be walking into was less than ideal. He could already hear raised voices on the other side of the curtain the closer they grew to it and the farther they retreated from the crowd. This was no triumphant homecoming nor some grand unveiling, so he made sure he was the first to poke his blonde head through the currently. Roland Master's MacKenzie was a large man, easily his son's height or a little taller, with shoulders as wide as an axe handle was long with a barrel chest and thick arms laden with the crisscrossed marks of scars. His hair was a short mop of blonde curls nearly dark enough to make him a brunette. He had his broad back turned to the curtail as he squared off with his wife and a young woman, with loose curls much longer that her father's but the same dark-dark blonde hue but her mother's soft features. Meera. They were deep within the throes of a heated debate when the younger woman's eyes shifted at the motion of the curtain and fell on him. Sun-kissed skin paled as blue eyes widened, welling with the threat of tears over a jaw gone slack with surprise.

"What?" Roland demanded as both women had fallen silence, surprised as the heat suddenly drained away. It softened his tone as he played at being reasonable. "Look..." His own tone held none of the brogue of many of the younger or more involved MacKenzies, strong but flat in its pronunciations. "All I'm sayin' is that we should be careful about some stranger dredgin' up the terrible past... threatenin' the peace we've tried to come to all these years..."

He let those words hang for a moment, only half aware that Meera wasn't looking at him until Romeo broke the silence that followed.

"Always were the pragmatist," he said softly. "Never understood the fine line you walked between that and the sweet succor you peddled beneath our roof. Was too young to appreciate it back then, but I learned the lesson hard when I was gone."

It was a hard stare that Roland Masters MacKenzie turned on the young man who stood before him, who was the spitting image of him thirty years or more prior, save for the lighter hair. They had the same laugh lines around the corners of the mouth and eyes, though the older's were deeper but no less harder earned. The older man had been all to ready to boil over like a pot left too long on the stove, but the longer he stared at Romeo, the more of that tension melted away. The next few moments after felt like an eternity, as a more than a decade of pain and regret rose to the surface, only to be washed away by something else.

Relief.

"Hello, Da. I'm home."

"Ro...Romeo..." Roland whispered his name with all the reverence of a prayer thought long unanswered that finally was. "My boy..."

And then the two men were hugging fiercely.

Behind the curtain, Addie held fast to Ro's hand, trading a look with Aisling as she heard the exchange of concern and almost anger between the trio beyond. Juliet had been overjoyed by Ro's homecoming, Aisling as well. Addie wasn't sure of what to expect from his father or older sisters but she knew that as everything went quiet, it was sure they would find out soon. She free her hold on him as he stepped through, waiting until Romeo had piped up to sneak a peek through the crack in the curtain. It was like looking into the future, seeing Ro's dad, but all of his fire had drained away and the dull thud of their collision as they hugged was enough to prompt her to sneak through and slide off to one side so Aisling could join them too. The teeth digging into her bottom lip couldn't quite hold back the growing smile on her lips nor the tears in her eyes, which she quickly wiped away to keep them from spilling down her cheeks. Seeing is believing.

Meera glanced from the tearful reunion to Addie, her expression troubled until a reassuring look from Aisling (the girl was smiling brighter than the sun as she tried not to cry). She held her ground as the two men exhanged some murmured words between them, bried with the promise for more later, before they drew back and she was throwing herself into the mix to wrap her brother in a tight hug. It went on like that for a long time, as Juliet and Aisling eventually added themselves to the group endeavor, before Ro was trying to squirm out of their collective grip. Insinctively, he reached out for his fiance.

"Da, Meera. This is Addie, the brightest light in my life and soon to be part of our family."

Thrice now Addie had witnessed this. First on the field outside of Dun Fairfax with Aisling. Second just within the gates of Dun Juniper with Juliet. And now, deep within the heart of Sutterdown with not one but two more of Ro's closest kin. Sadly, one was missing, which meant the cycle of tension and relief and waterworks and hugging would occur once more. Addie gave the knot of MacKenzies plenty of space and time, lingering awkwardly on the edge until Ro reached for her. She slid a hand into his to let him draw her a bit closer, her smile soft and tentative. Already she knew Aisling and Juliet, liked them both more than well enough, but she still couldn't help but be nervous. "Merry met... it's... thank you for having me."

His burly arm slipped around her slender waist, hauling her in with a growing smile as he looked between her and the (mostly) assembled Masters MacKenzies. Roland and Meera were looking at Addie with a renewed interest and, for the most part, none of it was anything less than please. It was kind of hard to ruin a moment like this. "Wouldn't be half the man I am without her and it was her gift to me that brough me home, if only for a short time."

And that was how the pretty punk rock bard found herself in a crushing embrace, compounded by three other pairs of arms as Ro watched her get harmlessly mauled by his kin. "Thank you," Roland murmured quiet enough for her to hear. "A million times, thank you."

"Shh, you've always been a good man." She turned her head to bump her nose against his shoulder. That much she was adamant about but she couldn't linger long at his side, not with his family pulling her in to add her to their tangle of arms and hugs and familial affection. This. This made every ounce of effort and preparation and trouble worth it. Try as she might to squeeze the squeezers, she could only laugh and nod, her words quiet. "The least I could do for all he's done for me. Thank you for raising such an amazing boy."

"Aye," Roland conceded. "He always was at that, the scamp. And now I see a man before me and him with a special girl. Still find it hard some days to buy the whole bit about the Lord and Lady, but clearly someone was lookin' out for ours."

He released her back to Romeo's care then, but the smiles and the warm expressions still lingered as he slipped his arms around her waist from behind, grinning a lopsided grin over her shoulder at his family. "She's very special, Da. Any woman would have to be to want to someday marry a big old goof like me."

"They work in mysterious ways." She chuckled, leaning back against the solid post that was Romeo. Someone somewhere had to have been looking out for Ro. He had survived some pretty rough times in Rhydin and though his time with Addie hadn't always been easy either, she could only be glad that the worst of it had seemed to pass. Looking up over her shoulder at him, her smile was soft and fond. "I may've been dropped on my head a few times as a child, but I swear I'm of sound mind."

"It's the pancakes," he told them all, winking at his father. "She loves the panackes. There da's recipe, you know."

"Is it really?" Her brows lifted as she looked from Ro to Roland and back. "They're pretty much the main reason I'm marrying him, yeah. Those pancakes... whew..."

There was a lot of laughter for her answer and another squeeze from her intended. "She's got a ring, cowan style, but eventually she's gonna have a torc around her neck and then the ranks swell. Her kin are of the Old Religion as well or, well, their own flavor of it. So, hey, at least she's no cowan, right?" Addie's side was given a pinch.

For emphasis she raised her left hand, the backside toward his family. On her left ring finger, much the same as she had shown the boy from the dragon sept, was her white gold claddagh set with sapphires and diamonds. It wasn't flashy or over the top, just right for her despite what people back home may have thought. "My sort trend more toward the mother of the Threefold Hecate, but we've done a lot of comparing and contrasting and found the similarities are pretty neat." She smiled up at Ro, too fond for her own good and obviously smitten with the blonde bruiser.

"I remember those days," Roland nodded to the ring with a nostalgic smile as Juliet came to tuck herself beneath his arm. "Juliet says your time is limited, for whatever the reason, something mumbo-jumboish, right? Will you come back here for the weddin'? Is there anyway for us to get to you? I... Christ, erm, Goddess... I've got a thousand questions..."

"Well..." She bit her lip, tugging her smile crooked as she peeked up at Ro. They had talked about it so she gently nudged him with her elbow. "While I'm not wholly certain about what the future holds... but we're definitely going to make the most of our time here no matter what."

"Well," Ro drawled out the word, glancing between his family and Addie, squeezing the latter. "We're plannin' on a handfasting here durin' Lughnasadh..."

The three women practically squealed at the revelation and he didn't get the chance to explain further as the three MacKenzie women swept Addie up in their arms with a sincere giddiness. Roland, for his part just laughed and then gave Romeo a helpless look before slinging his arm around the younger man's shoulders. "Seems to me like my pockets are gonna be a little emptier in the next few days if we're gonna do this right."

Midsquish by the Masters MacKenzie women, she couldn't help but laugh. "We'd planned on doing something back home but not for awhile... but this opportunity presented itself to us... kinda hard to pass up, you know?" She bit her lip, looking between the women and the men equally before pinpointing her attention on Ro's parents. "I know it's a little unconventional and normally the other way around, but he's your only son and all, so do you two mind if I make him mine forever?"

"Someone's gotta keep him on the straight and narrow if he ain't stayin'." Roland laughed while Juliet nodded vigorously.

"Heh, it's usually more the other way around between the two of us. But he's my center... I'll try my best to do the same for him." She said with an earnest smile.

"Then," Roland grinned. "I'd suggest you let these three beautiful ladies take you out amongst one of the finest markets in the land to prepare for your special day, sweetheart. Isn't much time to prepare for a proper celebration, is there? I'll hold onto your fella. Me and him can catch up over a few tankards while you do your best to bankrupt us."

"Who am I to say no to that?" She offered Roland a fond look for his son and nudged Ro lightly with her hip. "Keep a good eye on him, he's wiley as all get out. I'll see you soon enough." With that she leaned up to kiss her fiance on the cheek and stepped away toward her future mother-in-law and sisters-in-law to do just that.
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PostPosted: Fri Aug 10, 2018 10:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

July 30th, 2018

Lughnasadh.

Two days had passed in a paradoxical mix of whirlwind preparations and long pauses; the former a nerve-fraying series of decisions or plans that mostly involved the women's idea of how things were to be (Roland had cautioned his son to just smile and nod whenever asked if he approved) and the latter a series stolen moments where the would-be groom absconded with his lady, usually for sunrise vistas and sunset promises. Bits and pieces of old memory came back to him as he watched the festival unfold, though none so endearing as the way Dun Juniper was lit up in multi-colored torchlight upon their return to his home for the holiday itself.

Lughnasadh was only second behind Beltane in popularity for wedding dates, but with so many of young away for the dwindling days of the war, it all felt as if it were only for Romeo and Addie. The sites, the smells, the sounds of merry-making, and the sun itself was only beginning to set along the western horizon over the tall treetops of the Willamette Valley.
The young couple had been pried apart in the middle of the afternoon, on the heels of a late lunch. The bride had been whisked away to the main lodge to be doted upon and tended by the Masters-MacKenzie ladies, including the oldest of the children Moira, a fierce looking warrior of a woman with her hair shaved along the sides and a warrior's braid touching the middle of her back. She had been left behind by the First Levy to convalesce after the Battle of the Horse Heaven Hills, though whatever bitterness she had felt for it had melted away quickly at the discovery of Ro and more still as she got to know Addie with the passage of a day and a half.

The young Lion of the family and groom-to-be was sequestered away at the Loaf and Jug with his father, Sam Aylward, and a handful of the other men, most to instill the big blonde youth with as much liquid courage as he could hold without losing his lunch. But eventually the sun dipped down over the horizon, filled the Dun with a quiet calm that was broken with the last traces of light beneath the din on lambeg drums.

Addie had always wanted a sister. Older, younger, it didn't matter. Now she had three, two of the former and one of the latter. To say that she was in a bit of familial heaven was an understatement to say the least. There was plenty of talk and through that, Addie could see not only how different life was here but also how similar it could be. Aisling and her boy troubles, Moira and Meera and the way their families had branched out from there. All totally normal. Like Ro hadn't disappeared for more than a decade and also hadn't shown up after all that time, only to bring home a woman he wanted to marry. So... life was a little weird too, but her future in laws seemed to be taking it in stride. The upside to a world where people believed in magic after all.

While Ro awaited the toll of the bell, Addie paced and tried to work out her nerves by talking through it with the Masters-MacKenzie women. "Back home, my mum did a modified handfasting with my step dad... he's cowan, you know. She didn't want to scare him away with the whole to do... her sort have a three day thing... all the old rites. Even with Ro coming from here, I didn't think we'd do the whole shebang. Still... I'm... I'm really glad this is happening."

"It's no three day spectacle here," Meera told her with a grin, her own husband Daniel among the fine gentleman keeping Romeo company. "Instead just a day, this night in honor of the Harvest and then for those with the energy the day after. It'll still be a spectacle, after a fashion, sure and it will. It'll be fun to see how much our sweet little Bromeo remembers. I'll walk you through the words, for sure, but just remember the most important part is to speak your true heard before the Lord and Lady's altar. It's especially sacred to do so within the nemed of the Chief's own Singing Moon Coven, the first of the Clan's sacred wood and altar."

"Spectacle is definitely a good word for what it is." Addie laughed. It was easy to see the girl was nervous, though why she wasn't sure. This was exactly what she wanted with Ro. That his family could bear witness? Well that was only icing on the cake. Hopefully it would make it particularly special for Ro too. Pressing her lips together to keep from smudging the lip stain (oh how the women had fawned over the makeup in Addie's bag), she gave Meera a nod and took a deep breath. "Hopefully my tongue will cooperate with my heart. S'all I'm really worried about, is tripping over it all, you know?"

"I cried in the middle." Meera's confession came with a giggle and a roll of her eyes, before she wrapped a slim arm around Addie's shoulders for a squeeze. "The Lady knows your heart. Romeo does too. The rest is just speaking the words, mine sister-to-be. Now, how shall we do your hair? Time is running short."

"That's... that's highly likely for me too." Another laugh, easy coming like always. The pads of her fingers swiped beneath her eyes just in case, but otherwise her makeup, a natural looking getup with a pop of color on her lips, was done, leaving only her hair as Meera had said. She took another deep breath, nipped at her bottom lip and considered it. "Loose? Maybe pin these front strands back just to keep them out of my face? Ro likes my hair down..."

"Men always do." Juliet laughed. "Something about wantin' something to hold onto." The groom's mother bobbed her brows salaciously until Moira snorted and gave her a push. It ended with all of the women dissolving into a fit of giggles, until the sound of the drums stifled them and Aisling was closing the distance to tug Addie towards the door.

"It's time, sister. Destiny awaits."

Under other circumstances, one might find such a comment from their future mother-in-law to be disconcerting or a little weird. But the more Addie settled in amongst the free loving MacKenzies, the more she found it outright giggle worthy. Though her cheeks reddened while she slid a few simple bobby pins against her scalp to hold back the front most strands of hair, she was soon done and ready (almost) to face Aisling as she pulled her away.

"You know, you make that sound far more ominous than it is!" She grinned for good measure.

"Hey," she chimed back with a pawky smile and a tease. "You're the one marrying my lumber idiot brother!" More tugging finally pulled her out the door with the rest of the Masters-MacKenzie women in tow.

Outside of the main lodge, a steady procession of people began to gather and move along the northward trail leading to the nemed. For a few, it was difficult to forget in the moment that something other than a wedding was afoot, a great many turning out to pay respects to the Lady and the Lord of the Harvest, as much as to the anxious couple. The closer they grew to the sacred wood along the trail, the more people packed together; Addie and Ro only spotted one another once during the chaotic procession, enough for a glimpse and a fleeting smile before they found themselves packed in amongst dozens. Within the sacred circle, the Chief's oldest daughter and tanist led the MacKenzies in the rite to dedicate the beginning of the harvest season, a complex ritual of music and dance and play-acting that ran the gamut between reverent and bawdy. But there was no denying that the peoples' hearts were in it, their voiced lifted in prayer and praise and devotion, given with song and smile before it all melted away into the quietude of murmuring voices.

There was something savage, almost primal even, in the way they congregated in a throng reminiscent of the Asterians of lore, gathered beneath the first stars in the sky well before things like electricity and the internet were around. It called to the wildest parts of her heart, the ones most in tune with the earth beneath her feet and the wind against her cheeks. She let the other women lead the way, staying close as they drew near, a nightcapped vision in floaty white, a tunic styled dress that they had found at one of the more popular stalls in the market at Sutterdown. It hit at the knees and out of preference more than practicality, she had elected to go barefoot rather than trying to match something on short notice. It worked out that way rather nicely she thought. Catching sight of Ro, but only in passing, was enough to still her jitters for a little while longer. Until they met again, she was content to take in the revelry.

The ceremony sang to the lost son of the Clan, until Ro was swaying and singing along, his eyes bright and alive with the memory. It was consuming, a satisfying burn of acceptance he had only ever found in a few places in Rhy'din. That Addie was there and so close only increased his fervor in the moment, his breathing heavy when the final So Mote It Be was spoken by the assembled and a hush fell over them. It was enough to push him to the front, shift and gentle bulling his way through those who had blocked him until then, until he had almost reached the front. Maude, the Chief's tanist had melted away from the circle lit brightly by torchlight, only to be replaced by the MacKenzie herself, resplendent in the Clan's tartan over a simple cotton gown and a circlet betting her station as High Priestess of the Singing Moon Coven and Goddess on Earth.

"While not quite as popular as Beltane, we usually have more than our fair share of lovers looking to take the leap into marriage this time of year." There was a touch of impishness that crinkled the corners of the woman's green eyes despite the importance of the moment just shared and the ones to come, one slim hand reaching back to rake through the gray-shot fox red of her hair as she allowed the small crowd to settle. Soft music rose from somewhere at her back, the lambeg drums having since grown silent, replaced by the sweet austerity of a shalm and the soft whine of a fiddle. "But I suppose tis only fitting that we have a single pair this Lughnasadh and one of them a long lost MacKenzie son, returned to us from lands beyond and bringing with him a near incomparable jewel to add to the wealth of the Clan."

She turned her smile on Romeo and then Addie, an expression that easily coaxed them from their place in the masses.

"Romeo and Adelaide, know now before you go further, that since your lives have crossed in this life, you have formed eternal and sacred bonds. As you seek to enter this state of matrimony you should strive to make real the ideals that to you, give meaning this ceremony and to the institution of marriage. With full awareness, know that within this circle you are not only declaring your intent to be hand fasted before your friends and family, but you speak that intent also to the Lord and the Lady. The promises made today and the ties that are bound here greatly strengthen your union and will cross the years and lives of each soul’s growth. Do you still seek to enter this ceremony?"

When Juniper spoke, Addie's full attention rested upon her. So much so that she didn't notice Aisling until the young woman was right behind her. A few quiet words and a gentle nudge that made her jump had her starting forward with a diffidently demure smile. The crowd parted to allow her passage, more than handful of eyes upon the foreigner in their midst. But she knew Ro awaited and thusly had eyes only for the front, the end of a short walk and a sudden stop that found her at the forefront of the crowd with her blonde bruiser (and soon to be husband) within her view. She couldn't help the brilliant smile that lived upon her lips when she spotted him and no sooner were the words out of Juniper's mouth before she gave the Chief a fervent nod, her cheeks pinking a fraction of a moment after. "Yes. Absolutely."

Romeo's tartan had been exchanged for a clean, pressed kilt in the MacKenzie plaids, hobnailed shoes and high white socks accessorized with a Sgian Dubh knife ceremonially tucked within. His white cotton shirt and lace kravat were topped by a montrose jacket with polished black wooden buttons. The big bruiser was dry-mouthed but smiling when he looked from his intended to the Chief and then back, his nod earnest. "Nothin' I want more."

Juniper's nod of approval was telling. "Then take your bride by her hand, Son of the Clan." Romeo did so, reaching across the short distance between himself and Addie, curling his fingers gently around hers. The Chief produced a thick length of cord from her tartan, one woven from the finest of the Clan's plaid, and draped it over their joined hands. The rest of the assembled already started to shift when she did, a shuffle of feet turning them bodily with each verse of the blessing she spoke in a clear, lyrical voice.

"In many cultures it is believed that the human soul shares characteristics with all things divine. It is this belief which assigned virtues to the four cardinal directions; East, South, West and North. It is according to this belief that we align ourselves with these elements. Each of these blessings from the four cardinal directions emphasizes those things which will help you build a happy and successful union.

"Blessed be this union with the gifts of the East and the element of Air, for openness and breath, communication of the heart, and purity of the mind and body. From the east you receive the gift of a new beginning with the rising of each Sun, and the understanding that each day is a new opportunity for growth.

"Blessed be this union with the gifts of the South and the element of fire, for energy, passion, creativity and the warmth of a loving home. From the fire within you generate light, which you will share with one another in even the darkest of times.

"Blessed be this union with the gifts of the West, the element of water, for your capacity to feel emotion. In marriage you offer absolute trust to one another, and vow to keep your hearts open in sorrow as well as joy.

"Blessed be this union with the gifts of the North, the element of earth, which provides sustenance, fertility and security. The earth will feed and enrich you, and help you to build a stable home to which you may always return."

Her attention had shifted repeatedly between the pair and the star-filled sky above, but when the blessings were finished, she turned a look back to Addie and Romeo, and in the moments following focused on the latter. "I believe you have some words of your own for the lovely lass, aye?"

At that, Ro nodded subtly and drew in a deep breath, turning his gaze from Juniper to Addie. "This, uh, might take a minute... I'm not as good with words in front of crowds like the future missus..." For a moment, it looked like he might bolt, but when the words came, they did so clearly and sincerely. "A few years ago, I stole something that wasn't mine. It took a long time to figure out what it was a really stole: a moment. I stole a moment that I desperately wanted and, at the time, didn't know how badly I needed. And then I stole another. And another. Or at least I thought I did. They became less stolen moments and more given ones, less given ones, and more shared ones. And then, at some point, they weren't shared moments anymore. They were Our moments. You, Adelaide, my Pizza Girl, you filled in the cracks in my heart that I didn't know were there, fixing something that I didn't know was broken until you showed me what it meant to be whole. I won't say that you made me a better man, but it was being with you that showed me parts of myself I hadn't yet discovered, and walked along side me when I discovered the man I could be. The man I want to be. A man capable and better than all the chips on his shoulders, who doesn't have to shoulder every burden by himself.

A man who gets to see you for who you are too, beneath the glamour of the bawdy bard and rock star, beneath the guilt and the doubt and the demons. I get to see your strength and your resilience and your heart, and I wouldn't trade any of it for the world. Not this world, my home, or the one beyond. You are my home now."

It was in that moment that she was grateful she had gone minimalist on her makeup. Though her smile was bright, her lash line filled quickly with a coming flood, a warm trickle down grinning cheeks that somehow still managed to make her eyes sparkle more than usual. He spoke, her hands squeezed his, and in that very second, she needed nothing more in life. He was hers, he would be hers for as long as he would have her. The nervous little bob of her bare heels bounced her ever so slightly, diffusing nervous energy and an overwhelming need to kiss him. It wasn't time though, not yet at least. The Lord and the Lady required their due first and foremost and there and now, she wholly meant to make her intentions clear for all. For Juniper, the living goddess; for the Masters-MacKenzies, a clan within a clan and more importantly, her new family; the rest of the MacKenzies who had come to witness their moment, and of course the forces beyond their perception; the air, the sea, the earth, the flame, each an integral part of the interlocking circles that made up the universal order. Her thumb rubbed over his hand, still held fast as it was, and took a deep breath.

"I love you... I didn't plan on leading with that, but I had to say it first. Romeo Masters MacKenzie... never has a name been as sweet to my ears as yours. Romeo, Romeo, we both know how the next line goes... oft when we first met I would ask where fore art thou and now I know. You're here, with me, and there's no place I would rather be. In the time I've known you, you have become one of the most integral people in my life and when I think of the future, there isn't a single aspect that doesn't see me at your side. With you I can do anything, be anything, and face anything that comes my way. You have been there through the darkest moments in my life, when I thought it truly was me against the world. You kept me accountable and refused to let me quit even at the worst of times. For that... for that I can never thank you enough but I plan on spending the rest of my life showing you just how much it meant to me.

"I want to promise you the world but that's vague, so let me break it down for you. Ro, I promise to give you the very best of myself, on the good days as well as the bad. I swear to trust and respect you as your own person and to treat your needs as equally important as my own. I promise to give you my time and my attention and to bring smiles and strength and adventure to our union. I will always encourage your dreams and face our challenges together for though we are our own people, I am stronger with you and I look forward to growing and changing with you every day as your partner and equal in all things. With all of my heart I promise to love completely and forever with everything I have. "

Twice during her speech, Romeo had to couch and clear his throat. Though none of them spilled, his eyes were glassy with unshed tears and it took a monumental amount of will to not forsake the whole ceremony in favor of scooping her up right then and there. Instead he continued to smile and start down into her eyes, ignoring the rest of the world around them until Juniper's voice broke through the soft music and the gutter-crackle of the torches around them.

"Romeo and Adelaide, I bid you look into each others eyes. Will you honor and respect one another,and seek to never break that honor?"

We will. Their voices were joined in the moment, one sentiment from two souls.

"And so the first binding is made. Will you share each other’s pain and seek to ease it?"

We will.
A second cord was draped over the first.

"And so the binding is made. Will you share the burdens of each so that your spirits may grow in this union?"

We will. A third cord joined the pair.

"And so the binding is made. Will you share each other’s laughter, and look for the brightness in life and the positive in each other?"

"We will." A fourth and final cord joined the other three.

"And so the binding is made." Carefully, both meticulous and loving, the Chief bound their joined hands in the four cords, tying them all together.

"Romeo and Adelaide, as your hands are bound together now, so your lives and spirits are joined in a union of love and trust. Above you are the stars and below you is the earth. Like the stars you love should be a constant source of light,and like the earth, a firm foundation from which to grow. I am led to believe that you have tokens of your love, a show of binding that all would know you are one. If you would do so, present them now."

With his unbound hand, Ro produced a beautifully wrought torc of silver and gold, its ends fashioned with an expert's hand as the heads of lions. It was offered over to Juniper.

Her words were scratchy but clear, in unison with her betrothed. And when the time came, from 'round a corded belt around her waist she carefully removed her own offering. It had taken a visit to one of the dragon sept's favored booths, but she found it and knew at once it was perfect. In much the same styling, silver and gold intertwined in a fine, sturdy open loop, a torc bearing a pair of dragon heads. Addie suppressed a giggle at just what she would have done had she not been of her draconic blood, and offered the solidly crafted ornament over to the flame haired Chief.

Romeo was grinning as the Chief murmured a blessing near the two pristine pieces of metal and then fastened them around the necks of the couple, Lion for Addie and Dragon for Ro. She then placed her hands atop the knotted cords binding their hands. "Before the Lord and Lady, you are now one. So mote it be."

So mote it be, came the echo from the assembled clansmen and women.

"Well, Mister and Mrs. MacKenzie? What now?" Juniper grinned.

As above, so below. Her lips formed the words but they were silent, drowned by her joy and the overwhelming need to squeal her way out of her very skin for how excited she was. It was real. He was hers, she was his, for now and forever more. She let out a laugh and wasted no time at all in turning toward her newly deemed husband and kissed him fiercely, her free hand slung around his neck to pull him to her lips to show them all exactly her answer to Juniper's question.

He barely had time to move before the newly minted Addie MacKenzie was glued to him, her mouth on his in such a sweet fashion. A low, pleased sound was lost in the cheers but easily felt by her in the seal of their lips as his one free arm was slung tightly around her. They kissed. And kissed. Kissed some more. Then there was more kissing. It might have been terribly boring for some to watch if the bride wasn't so damned gorgeous.

Nobody existed save for the young couple as far as Addie was concerned. She kissed him until she couldn't breathe and even then, she drew back only enough to murmur three words against his lips. I love you. And then? She kissed him thrice more and finally sank back on her heels without letting him go, their fasted hands still held tight. Those, she held up with a grin as if to present them to the clan as a whole.

"Love you too," he told her with a lopsided smile, taking a moment at the height of their presentation to the Clan to bury his face against the side of her neck to mumble. "Don't freak out."

No sooner had Ro said the words, the drums started up again, joined by the fiddles and pipes. The crowd then rushed the newlyweds, broken up by gender. Addie and her beau found themselves suddenly swept upwards, the cords coming undone as the ladies lifted her and the men lifted Romeo. Eager hands began to grab at their clothing, plucking and pulling at the material, dragging it away until the both of them were clad in nothing but their torcs. Skyclad and there for the stars to see, they were carried atop a tide of hands, voices raised in song as they were swept away in the opposite direction of the Dun proper.

It was down another trail the pair were taken, with nothing but the stars above for light, until they were brought up short before a tent large enough to be a shack, illuminated from with in lanterns. Ushered inside, Addie and Ro found themselves tossed atop a bed, only to be abandoned moments later as the crowd danced back down the trail for the rest of the celebration at the Dun.
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PostPosted: Thu Aug 16, 2018 1:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

August 2nd, 2018

It had been readily obvious what the newlywed couple were supposed to do when sequestered away in their tent and, despite the din of the celebration rekindled back within the heart of the Dun, the young lovers weren't the type to disappoint. They rejoined the evening festivities some time later, disheveled, scantily dressed, and grinning shamelessly at the head of table the boast the best wedding repast the Clan had to offer. The alcohol flowed more and more with every toast, the singing growing louder, and the laughter mingling with the joyous heat of music and dance. At one point, during the height of the night, Romeo had leapt onto the table, fiddle in hand and with Addie and her guitar not far behind to thank their hosts with songs of their own. It left the two lovers grinning and sweating all over again, before they were swept back into the twirling, footstomping, leaping mania of it all. The party didn't truly wind down until nearly dawn, with less than half of the attendees remaining before they all stumbled off to bed.

Ro and Addie had returned to their tent after a short, meaningful stop at the altar in the nemed for something a little more private and personal. Half the afternoon was lost by the time they woke up in a pleasant tangle, stealing a little more of the heat of love before dragging themselves to the bathhouse. Their remaining few days were filled with the celebration of the beginning of the harvest season and the Masters MacKenzies, as much as the both of them could stand and more. For the big blonde bruiser it came easy and with the knowledge that the moments, precious as they were, were fleeting. The time ticked away faster that he wanted.

As their week wound down and the end of their time came to an end, Addie knew it would hard to say goodbye, and not just for Ro. In a short handful of days, she had found something that she had only barely managed to cobble together from bits and pieces back home; a family. They, the Masters and the entire MacKenzie clan alike, had welcomed her with open arms. They had given her what they could in hospitality, kindness, and food and drink and Addie wasn't quite ready to say goodbye. The night before they were poised to leave, the Jug 'n' Loaf played host to a late night of talking and laughing, eating and drinking, the whole family settled around a big table, shoulder to shoulder so that they would all fit.

"And I swear to the gods as my witness, there must have been fifty thousand tickets when all was said and done. The prize he won with it all wouldn't even fit on the way home, we had to strap it to the roof with bungee cords." She wrapped up another true story about her beau, sharing bits and pieces of the time the Masters-MacKenzies had missed in trade for snippets of his childhood. Her gaze slid to the blonde bruiser, her smile fond and her eyes sparkling. "It takes up a solid corner of my bedroom."

"Pretty soon," Ro told them and made a show of grimacing, "the girl's gonna need a whole room just for her stuffies. But I guess you've seen her smile, and when she does, I just can't tell my acushla no to anything in the world. It's the second best thing she does with her mouth." A cry of scandal went up for that (though it was mostly feigned, save for Roland nearly falling out of his seat with laughter), but the blonde bruiser was quick to throw up his hands and pacify the mob of playfully indignant women. "The best bein' her kisses, of course?"

Maybe they wouldn't notice the side-eye he gave his wife.

Through her laughter, she swatted and pushed at her new husband's shoulder before burying her face against it with a giggle and a shake of her head. "Incorrigible, Romeo, incorrigible. But he's not wrong. About the plushies, that is. There's plenty of room in the house currently, but depending on Michi and Yasmin, that could change one way or the other. I figure it's almost a given that they'll end up together long term, if one of 'em just bucks up and makes the leap, you know? If Mich moves out, then I think we'd likely stay where we are... but we can always look at somethin' down the line for the two of us and Fred."

"Everything'll happen in its time." The smile and words were panned across to his family, but his hand was making a gentle claim on Addie's. "Right now, I'm just enjoyin' what I have. Her. You guys. Everything else is just extra gravy." The smile wavered slightly as he was reminded what tomorrow was to bring, causing him to draw in a deep breath. "And we're gonna try to make it back as often as we can, however we can do it."

"It's been a lovely week..." She agreed softly, her hand slipping into his for a soothing squeeze. The coming morning would bring plenty of heartache but still she nodded in unison with Ro's remark. "It's worth the expenditure. I... I can't guarantee how often, but provided tomorrow we have no issues, I don't see why we shouldn't be able to come back. When that time comes, is there anything you'd like us to bring?"

Please don't say grandchildren, please don't say grandchildren, please don't say grandchildren.

"A workin' television?" It was Roland who spoke, quickly cutting off Juliet from likely saying exactly what Addie feared. Clearly, the older man was joking and Ro made a comical face at him. He smothered a chuckle into his wife's palm as he kissed it, then turned his attention back to the Masters MacKenzies.

"I can think of a few things the older folks might enjoy that wouldn't come to pieces with whatever the Change has wrought. I'll keep them in mind for the return trip. Maybe we can try for Yule; if not then, Beltane. One way or another, we'll find our way back. The both of us."

"I mean, I could print off your favorite flicks and make a flip book out of it." She offered with a wry smile for her father-in-law. That said, she felt back joking about it, if only because they were going back to a world where they had all of that and more. Technology, even Terran tech, had come so far in the past twenty years, it was crazy to think that the MacKenzies would never know what it was like. Making a mental note to have a more in depth discussion with Quinten when they got back, she offered another little nod of agreement with Ro. "Ro's told me so much about Beltane here. Rhy'din's got our own celebration... but it's mostly alcohol and fire and alcohol, you know? Not as meaningful."

"Like it was before the change." Juliet nodded. "Just an excuse for part-time pagans to drink to much and sleep with whoever was handy in the moment. I think you should come home for Beltane. It would be a lovely experience for you, along with every other holiday here." She grinned and it took years off of her expression.

"That sounds about right." Her smile slid Juliet's way before she looked up to Ro with a tilt of her head. It had always felt odd imposing on the Wyatts for the holidays, even if Raven was technically blood. It just felt like... she was messing up things for her younger self and the last thing she wanted to do was make little Addie's life any harder than it had to be. The little girl had a chance for something normal, her older counterpart intended to protect that. "If it's possible, we could definitely see about it, yeah? No objections from the Mister?"

"No objections." He gave a big lopsided smile, kissing her hand again before turning a more somber look on the assembled family. "We'll do everything we can to be here as much as possible, but..." And then Ro sighed. "We've got an early day ahead of us. Might be that we should all turn in and rest up. Gonna be a long goodbye tomorrow..."

"Loathe as I am to disagree, you're unfortunately right." She gave him a devastating pout, but leaned over to peck his cheek gently before easing her chair back from the table. From there it was a matter of a plenty long goodbye with many hugs and kisses and more hugs after that before the little clan dispersed to their individual rooms for the night. It was there that Addie joined Ro in bed, dressed down for the night and yawning into his neck as she mumbled. "I don't wanna go..."

"I don't want to either." He had settled onto their small bed a few minutes before her, slipping his arms tight around her and holding on tight. "It... brings a lot of things back and... man, I never thought I'd get to have all o' this again. But you are my home now, and right now your life is in Rhy'din, which means mine's there too."

One arm wrapped around his broad torso, her fingers grazing lightly up and down along his oblique. A little nod bobbed her head, her cheek turning just enough to nuzzle against his jaw. "Y' don't think they'd want to come with us, if such a thing is possible, do you?"

"Maybe." He shrugged a broad shoulder. "I dunno. My sisters haven't ever really known another life, least Moira and Meera can barely remember the time before the Change. Da might, he was a cowan before the Change and loved his tech, but Ma was always of the Old Religion so... maybe it's somethin' to think on and look into. We've got time to consider it."

"Other than the whole... cars and tech and electricity... Rhydin isn't so weird." She was fading fast, long since out of steam after an eventful week. "I bet they'd like Amberhelm... but I wouldn't blame them for not wanting to go. Maybe they can come visit sometime... 'm gonna talk to Quinten 'bout it after we get home. With your blessing of course... it's your fam."

"They're your fam now too, Pizza Girl. You're a MacKenzie now." He teased a kiss to her ear, murmuring. "But we can talk about it. Talk to Quinten. It's not like there's a rush. They're out of danger from the sound of things and we've got a little wedded bliss to enjoy, just you and me. But if the options there... I'd definitely like to know."

"Plenty of time to figure it out... I just... I haven't seen you this happy before, I wanna give this to you as much as I can." She mumbled against his skin. Another sleepy little yawn was stifled, just barely, before she kissed his neck, his jaw, his cheek, and finally his lips for a long sweet moment before withdrawing to settle in against him. "But for now... sleep."
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 10, 2018 2:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

August 3rd, 2018

The first light of dawn had yet to crack over the Cascades when Romeo and Addie had gathered with a select few outside the gates of Dun Juniper to say their goodbyes. There were tears and laughter, shoving and hugs (the newly minted Addie Masters MacKenzie rivaled her handfasted man for how many she received), mumbled fondness and promises that would have to be kept. The big blonde bruiser had been given his first taste of home in over a decade and be in the seed of nostalgia or one of addiction, it all but guaranteed that a way would be found to come back someday. In a moment of mischievous charity, Ro produced a box from a previously hidden cooler bag and held it up if offering to Juniper MacKenzie and his parents. As oldsters, it only took a few blinking moments for them to understand.

The box itself was sealed cardboard in a glossy chocolate brown but it was the logo on the side that drew a collective gasp from those who had been adults before the Change. The image was a slanted rectangle of red-ring white, its bold blue letters very firmly stating the word 'SNICKERS' across the field. At the top right corner on one of the box's walls, a bold white '48' marked the number of candy bars on the box. It was every bit worth the wave of nostalgia that brought smiles to their faces, earning another round of hugs and blessings before he was finally released.

Somehow, some way, they left with less than they arrived with. Romeo's pre-planning and shopping had paid off in droves, offering more than just the candy in the form of far more practical sundries. But the Snickers? Those were worth the smiles if only because it was a (literally) sweet way to remember them both. Once they finally let him go, it was Addie's turn once more to be swept up in hugs and kisses and promises to return. Quinten would likely give her one hell of a look when she returned but it would be worth it if this was the reaction next time they came back. Addie couldn't remember a time Romeo had been happier. When it was finally her turn to be released, she stepped back and slipped an arm around Ro's waist, leaning her head to his shoulder. They had to go, time was running out whether they liked it or not... A lift of her chin brought her gaze up to Romeo's profile. "Time check?"

"Time to go." He answered her with a smile but there was already a wistful touch to it, a mouthful of sadness that denied him further words. Instead, he waved one last time to the others, caught a kiss blown by his mother, and then turned them towards the road east. The reins for his horse and the packhorse were held loosely in one hand, the other arm around Addie as they started the final leg of their journey. Romeo drank in their surroundings as they went, recommitting certain things to memory and filing newer ones away. His expression cursed whatever it was that caused the Change, denying him the use of a camera so that all the more memories could be taken home with them.

"We'll see you soon, I promise." It was as good as the vows she had given Ro the night they had been handfasted and with that, she let Ro lead the way. It wasn't far and truly not necessarily to make it back to Rhydin based on what Quinten had said which helped. But she wasn't sure how they would take them simply disappearing before their eyes or if it would be particularly traumatizing to do so. It was likely better to be a little bit further away when they made their final departure. For a few moments she gave Romeo his silence, plenty of time to commit it all. When she broke it, she did so with a gentle nudge of her hip to his. "You doin' alright?"

"Yeah," he replied with a sidelong smile and a squeeze of her opposite hip. "Just gonna miss them as all. If they didn't already have their lives so firmly established here, I'd steal them away to Rhy'din... or I'd find away. But this is their home. Mine's wherever you are. We'll be back."

"Wouldn't that be nice?" She said softly, managing to lean up on her toes even as they walked to brush a fleeting kiss to his jaw. The motion gave her ample opportunity to glance over her shoulder as Dun Juniper began to fade beyond the thickening trees. "I've already got a few ideas for what to talk to Quinten about. I'd... I'd like to see if it might be viable for them to visit, you know? Even if it's short like our visit here... would that... would that be okay?"

"You know," he mumbled as she drew back from the kiss. "You keep bein' this amazin', you'll never get rid of me. You know that, right?" It was enough to make him pause beneath the rise, Dun Juniper all but gone as he gathered her up in his arms to kiss her right and proper, one of those ones that lasted a little too long to be anything but perfect. Ro was smiling against her lips when he withdrew. "I think you know the answer, acushla."

"Wellllllll, baby, I hate to tell you... but that little thing we did in front of all those people? It means you can't get rid of me now. I'm officially like stripper glitter." It was good for a grin against his lips. Already she could feel the shift the aether around them, their departure looming imminently. "It would be a pretty big culture shock... for your sisters especially but to a point your parents too... but I'm gonna see what we can do. They're mine now too, you know."

"Glitter is like herpes. You're not like herpes. I'll settle for makin' you my personal forever stripper, though." He dropped a kiss to the side of her neck and hugged her tighter, content to linger in the embrace as they talked. All things considered, might wanna think baby steps. Let's get back here a few times first. It's a nice break from Rhy'din. There's more for you to see... then we'll see about a little field trip the other way..."

"Well you still aren't getting rid of me." She countered, tilting her head to one side. "Baby steps... right... I'm just... all of this kinda got me thinking about what the future holds. We've got so much ahead of us and... having a family, a real family like this? It's..." Sigh. A happy one. "It's more than I could've asked for. I always wanted a sister, you know? Michi and Miz are like my sisters... but I know when it comes down to it, they've got their own things and their own fam and such... I just... yeah. You know."

"Got our whole lives ahead of us, Addie," he told her with another gentler kiss. "And plenty enough time to decide what we want to do with them. I'd say, all things considered, between Miz and Mich and your ma and Henry and what we've got here, we're goin' pretty alright. Nothin' to do now but to build on it."

"It's a good foundation, isn't it?" Though her mouth was busy with his, her senses were on high alert, giving her a slight head start when a whole different Change occurred. Her arms slipped around him fully, holding tight though it shouldn't have been needed. "Hold on to the horses, yeah? We've got... I'd say a minute and a half. You wanna kiss me again?"

"It is and... yes I do. Since it's the only thing worth doin' right now that we can do in ninety seconds or less." His grip on the reins tightened in his left hand, his right arm tightening around her. The kiss he pressed to her lips was every bit as fervent as the one on their wedding night. Practice always makes perfect.

Perfection wasn't quite a good enough word for what it was when his lips met hers. Call it the jump from Earth to Rhydin, but she nearly felt her knees give and by the time she steady, she was giggly and flushed in the cheeks, her fingers curled tight into the back of his shirt. Earth faded and in its place was Rhydin, the very spot upon which they had departed a week prior, awash in an azure glow that ebbed as reality became more... well, real. Even then she kissed him, soft and slow until a deep clearing of a throat behind them called her attention away from his mouth.

"You're both in one piece, I trust?" Quinten was there to meet them, expectant in the once over he gave them both. It left Addie grinning like a schoolgirl, glancing up to her newly minted husband and back to her grandfather.

"No problems at all... it was... everything we could have hoped for and more."

The whole reality shifting was almost as unsettling as it had been the first time, but it was easier with the distraction she provided. The taste, the smell, and the feel, it stole the queasiness away, with the kiss that followed threatening to coax the pair into repeating one or more of the escapades from earlier in their relationship. Well, until Quinten ruined the moment. Addie grinned and Ro laughed, turning a big lopsided smile on the older man.

"I don't think I could have asked for a better vacation..."

Their answers seemed to visibly relieve the man, the tension bleeding out of his shoulders with an exhale. "Vacation... experiment... I'm glad it proved positive either way. Surely the two of you wouldn't mind debriefing me on your week? I know that... your mother," his gaze rested on Addie with an almost uncomfortable shift, "has been eagerly awaiting your return and would like to hear about it as well."

"Well..." She was about to answer him when he threw in the two bits about Raven. Her brows lifted and she looked up to Ro. "Whatcha think babe? You up for it?"

"Tell you what," Romeo drawled and cracked a deep yawn. "If you can spare me and Addie enough time to get a proper shower and some real caffeine in us, I don't see much wrong with us all getting together to have a chat about our trip. Pretty sure there's a few things each of you will be interested in or excited about. Sound good?"

"I suppose I'm amenable to that." Quinten nodded after a moment before gesturing the way he had come from and the way they had taken to arrive there a week earlier. Addie clapped her hands and let out a little laugh.

"Yes, caffeine. Real caffeine. And a real shower. Let's say... mom's in an hour?" She offered, trading looks between her beau and the Youngblood Patriarch. The latter nodded once more.

"An hour then. I trust that you'll be fine getting back from here?" It was rhetorical at best if only because he was gone a moment later, nothing more than a voice on the wind. It left Addie grinning back up at Ro.

"What can we do with an hour?"

"How about tw-- damn." Quinten was gone before Romeo could offer his counter proposal. "That's not nearly enough time."

He began tugging Addie in the direction of home with a determined looks. "Dude clearly doesn't know what we do in the shower..."
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