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The Faerie Queen
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JewellRavenlock
The Empress
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 01, 2018 6:26 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Ishmerai had been gone only a few hours when Mallory returned to the sanatorium, clutching a copper lantern in one mittened hand and a rolled-up stack of Valentine’s in the other. A plastic takeout bag dangled from the crook of her elbow, filled with wooden embers.

“Ooo-ooo, are those for your teacher?”

“Christ, Ally, be less of a bitch,” she said without turning from her path through the garden, recognizing her sparring partner from her taunting tone alone. A chorus of jeers rose up in response, and the witch finally looked back when she reached the ruined archway. Haizea, Calla, Almast, Lavanya -- the ones she could always count on to give her a hard time.

“Seriously, what are you up to?” Haizea folded her arms to watch the witch, who paused in the middle of stacking broad, flat stones in front of the portal to look at her.

“Li’l help?” Haizea relented to Mallory’s request with a sigh, joining the others in completing the witch’s little cairn. “It’s a beacon… like a light outside an inn, but it can shine across realms,” she explained, as she tugged her mittens loose and started packing materials into the lantern. “We need a lantern, and a power source,” tapping the fresh band-aid on the heel of her left thumb.

“Ew,” Calla supplied helpfully.

“Then something from a lighthouse,” as she added the old embers, “and a symbol of love,” cramming in as many of the Valentine’s Day cards as she could. Most of them looked like the kind that kids gave their classmates, featuring a cartoon owlbear with hearts for eyes.

“That’s it?”

“Nnh.” The witch shook her head and produced a lock of hair from within her jacket, carefully wrapped with a silk ribbon. “A binding agent. Once the lantern is lit, Ishmerai has only to turn in the right direction… and he’ll see this light on the horizon, and know the way home.”

“Wait, that’s his hair?” Lavanya wrinkled her freckled nose.

“Not for long,” the witch muttered. As soon as the lock of hair was in, she lowered a little Bic lighter to the lantern and ignited it. The fuel took much faster than it should have, bursting into green sparks and ashes, and she hurriedly clapped the little glass door shut.

Then she rotated it in place above the cairn, waiting until something pulled it straight down, locking into place atop the stones. There it remained, never slipping despite the uneven angle of the cairn, or the strong winter winds that howled down from the mountains; undimmed, it shone its twinkling emerald light into the realm of Faerie itself.


* * * * *

“Show yourself,” Jewell commanded, the power of Authority in her voice.

A young woman turned around. Her face was marked by long cuts down the front, like someone had taken their nails and scored her skin, and her hair was brown and tangled. She might have been unrecognizable if not for the t-shirt she wore; it was soaked with blood but the lettering was still visible and familiar: I Do Believe in Faeries. Most of the House of Summer girls had the very same shirts, purchased for Yule last year. It was a funny joke between them and their fearless sídhe leader.

Lavanya gasped at her side. “Haizea?”

No, not Haizea. Not really. There was something cold about her, unholy and different. “Ghoul,” Jewell hissed.

“What?” Lavanya asked, confused, looking between the two women and then reaching out her hand towards Haizea, “Sister, what are you doing out here? What did they do to you? We thought-- we thought you were dead.”

Jewell ignored the woman at her side, staring straight at Haizea, or what remained of her after the Night Court was through with her. The ghoul ignored Lavanya’s tearful questions, turning back to the portal and, more alarmingly, the lantern in front of it. In the ethereal light cast from both the lantern and the portal, they watched her raise her hand.

“No!” Jewell shouted, dashing across the snow to try to reach her in time. Lavanya didn’t move, still dumbfounded and confused.

Haizea gathered energy into her hand and brought it down upon the lantern, but Jewell made it there just in time, tackling her into the snow between the lantern and the portal. The impact should have knocked the breath out of the ghoul, but she was stronger than Jewell was--stronger than even Haizea was normally. She grappled with the faerie, flipping her over and pinning her to the ground. One hand was around the tiny sídhe’s throat, nails like knives biting into her skin as she pulled her back and then slammed her down into the snow again and again, squeezing her throat until Jewell’s vision blurred.

“Get off her!” she heard Lavanya cry and suddenly Haizea’s weight was gone.

Lavanya was at her side instead, trying to help her up. “Are you okay? Are you okay?” she asked repeatedly, but Jewell tried to shove her away. Black dots filled her vision and her head spun as she looked around for where the ghoul had landed.

She was over at the lantern again. Lavanya had not wanted to hurt her sister and had only pulled her off the struggling Empress, allowing the ghoul to go right back to her task. Jewell gasped, trying to warn Lavanya, trying to tell her to stop the ghoul, trying to reach out with a magic that evaded her in her weakened state to stop the ghoul herself.

But it was too late.

Haizea’s hand rose once more, flickering with an evil light in the deep darkness that belong to the hours after midnight, and she slammed it down into the lantern, heedless of the way the glass tore at her skin.

Mallory’s spell exploded.

((Co-written with the wonderful Mallory!))
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JewellRavenlock
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 01, 2018 6:31 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

After, Jewell knelt at the place where the lantern had stood. What was left of Haizea’s body lay nearby, burnt beyond recognition. The woman turned ghoul had been torn to pieces by the spell and fried by the backlash of the portal. Jewell and Lavanya had suffered too: cut up by the fragments of glass and metal and burned by the wild energy let loose. The faerie didn’t know how long she had been out after the blast, but she had come to with Lavanya hovering over her--bleeding, anguished, worried.

The remaining House of Summer girls--only seven of them now--were huddled around her now too, shouting, screaming, arguing with each other. The fear in the air was palpable, their anguish and anger keen, but Jewell couldn’t focus on anything other than the piece of metal in her hands. A smooth curve with jagged edges, it had belonged to the lantern. It was supposed to guide Ishmerai home. It was supposed to bring her knight back to her. Her knight with his long dark hair, hard frown, and soft green eyes. Now… now how would he find his way out of the Far Lands? There was no light to guide him, and there was no lock of his hair to make another.

Ishmerai was lost to Faerie, just like her children.

Without him, Jewell was lost as well.

She bent forward, bowed under the weight of these trials. Ishmerai was gone. Aella, Calla, Judith, Samantha, and Haizea were all gone. And for what? So she could cling to the hopeless chance at life Mallory had offered her. So she could avoid facing her mortality.

The faerie had to face it now, kneeling there in the snow--shivering, bleeding, her heart beating tremulously--because the war was over. To achieve that slim chanced victory the witch had held out to her, Jewell knew she had to lose some battles and sacrifice some pawns, but this was the final blow. There was nothing left to fight for anymore. Ishmerai wouldn’t be returning. Certainly not before February 14th, and even if he did by some miracle, it didn’t matter.

Haizea had known the plans for her heart.

Which meant the Night Court surely knew and Belladonna knew. They knew the hope she had harbored and the desperate plan that had sent Ishmerai into the depths of Faerie from which he would never return. They knew the relic he sought and the heart she wanted to steal.

Which meant there would be no surviving for Jewell Ravenlock.

It had all been for nothing.

Despair made her cold as she listened to the cries of the House of Summer girls fill the garden where her last hope had been put to rest.

“What are we going to do? They’re going to kill us all!”

Ishmerai was gone.

“This is all your fault! You’ve been busy ****ing that Night Court trash--”

Her heart was broken.

You did this to Haizea.”

There was no more hope.

“Judith was right, you can’t protect us! You can’t protect anyone!”

I’m sorry, Sapphire.

She stood up slowly, feeling stiff, old, and broken. More broken than she had felt since the day last February when she had awoken in the hospital with a cut on her arm and a hole in her heart; with tubes everywhere and her body used and abused; and with a branch of magnolias at her side, wrapped in dark blue cloth and secured with a silver pin that wouldn’t end her life no matter how many times she pricked her finger.

“Empress? Empress? What are we going to do?”

Jewell blinked, turning slowly to look at Lavanya. What are we going to do? The question provoked only a blank stare from her. “I don’t care.”

She walked away through the snow and into the sanatorium. She was tired. Maybe everyone would leave her alone now and she could actually get some sleep.

Before the sun came up, two of the girls were gone.
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PostPosted: Thu Feb 01, 2018 9:00 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The powerful backlash from Haizea’s destruction of Mallory’s enchantment had violently awoken the witch from her slumber and left her with a searing headache that was only now beginning to fade, in the final minutes of darkness before dawn.

Lavanya had let her into the sanatorium through the Dockside door, and Almast regarded the passing of the witch and her girlfriend with a terse nod, but the others gave her nothing more than long, open glares. They wanted to give up. Haizea was dead because Jewell hadn’t given up, because it was actually hopeless, and because Mallory had concocted the impossible task from which Ishmerai would never return. She didn’t need to hear them say it to feel it in the heat of their stares.

This is your fault.

It was a familiar sensation, if troubling; her hand tightened around Eri’s as they stalked through the noiseless courtyard, where the smell of burning flesh was mercifully cut by the frost-bitten wind blowing down from the mountains. They found the portal at the source of the stench, still scattered with shattered glass, broken stones, and clumps of ash that had blown away from Haizea’s remains. The witch found a clear space and suppressed a shiver as she knelt before the archway.

The portal itself was still intact, more resilient than the witch’s cantrip magic, and humming with angry energy after the backlash the exploding lantern had provoked. The bridge to Faerie called out to her as it always did when she drew too near, telling her to let go of her trepidations and step into the Forest of the World -- to let go and run away from everything.

This is your fault.

She fanned out her fingers and whispered a Latin invocation of Fortuna, calling the lantern’s scattered copper pieces to her hand, molded by her magic into the shape of a small knife. She held the blade over her skin and paused to take a breath, compose herself, and concentrate on what kind of animal she should send through the portal. Into the Far Lands. In search of a friend who had protected her, and killed for her, and whom she had doomed in the pursuit of a plan born from her own arrogance.

This is your fault.

A little voice in her head told her that she deserved this pain and more when the small knife cut into the palm of her left hand, and for a moment she indulged it; deepening the cut, spilling more blood than the spell required, until the shock of pain broke her concentration. She cursed quietly and squeezed her palm, whispering the words of the spell over the newest drops before they could fall to the frost-covered grass.

Each drop erupted into a firefly, emanating a flickering crimson light as they bobbed in the air. Even as creatures born of magic, she could not be sure how long this trio of messengers would last in the chilly air. This was as much a fool’s errand as the quest itself, but there was a chance that it could work and bring him home.

She’d survived on slimmer hopes before.

“Messengers,” she whispered, her voice cracking with the effort to contain her tears; “go into the Far Lands, find Ishmerai, and light his way home.” She released a breath over her blood-stained hand, and on that gust the crimson fireflies went fluttering into the archway, disappearing through the tiny tear in the Veil in a shower of green sparks. And as soon as they were gone, she gave in to the wave of sorrow that had been threatening to wash over her since she’d first received word of the attack: she clutched at Eri’s jacket, leaned her head against the delinquent’s thigh, and cried.

Her friend was worlds away from her, far beyond her ability to aid him. And her brother would be following suit soon, venturing across the stars as soon as his training was done, countless lightyears further than she could hope to scry. She didn’t know what dangers he might face in the company of strangers in the months to come, or what Ishmerai might be facing right now while his friends were so far away.

But she could send fireflies, night after night, until he came home.
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JewellRavenlock
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 02, 2018 12:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Jewell slept all day in a medicated haze to hide from her sorrow, pain, and despair; but she was still haunted by nightmares that had her turning fitfully, tangling the sheets around her as she reached desperately for someone who wasn’t there. When she woke in the evening, the sun setting in brilliant shades of orange and pink on the mountainside, there were fresh tears on her face, and in the bleary moments between dreaming and waking, she remembered all over again that the lantern had been destroyed, that Ishmerai was not coming back, that she was going to die.

And she remembered Sinjin’s text: “I’m going back to Madrid for a week to check up on my sister — if you need me, just ping me. Or come find me, in the most inter-global game of hide and seek of all time.”

If you need me.

Mother of Nature did she need the sinner now. There was a sob threatening to choke her, and it was only practice from years of dealing with crippling depression that got her out of bed. She ignored her growing number of wounds--the bruises and scrapes from the Powerhouse Party had been joined by a dark circle of bruises around her throat from the ghoul and an uncountable amount of cuts, abrasions, and burns from Mallory’s spell--and the way her heart hurt worse than it did before she had entered the Iron Fists Garden last night. Her head spun at every movement and her limbs were heavy as she started to gather clothes in a haphazard way. She ignored that too.

She needed to go. She needed to get out. The crushing weight of Haizea being turned into a ghoul, of so many of her secrets being revealed to the Night Court, of the likelihood of never seeing Ishmerai again, of dying was too much for even the powerful sídhe to handle alone when it was coupled with Canaan’s kiss on her lips and her violent, visceral reaction.

It was odd that despite everything else that had happened in the last twenty-four hours, she still couldn’t shake off the way he had grabbed her wrist and how much she had wanted to hurt him in that moment. She was confused and frustrated too. Canaan wasn’t supposed to be kissing her anymore no matter how much he missed her and no matter how much she wanted him to because they were over. She had ****ed that up. Guilt ate away at her as much as the iron did (if not more so), adding to the sick feeling in her stomach that always lingered with the memories of her time spent under the influence of her True Name.

The Namekeeper’s voice had dominated her dreams again this afternoon.

Jewell shuddered to recall it. She stared into the small bag she was packing automatically without seeing the crumpled bunch of dresses inside it. Instead, she saw the room they had locked her in somewhere beneath an old condemned apartment building. It was small with a dirt floor. There was a bed against the wall. They didn’t use that at first. That came later.

It smelled like filth and misery, and The Namekeeper’s presence was always there with her. It had seeped inside every inch of her. It filled her up. It would not go away. It would not budge. She didn’t even want it to go away. Couldn’t want it or anything. She was an extension of him and nothing more. He had consumed her. Everything she was. Everything she had been. Everything she could ever be. Gone.

“Stooooop,” she groaned out, a light sweater crushed mercilessly within her fist. “I am here. I am here. I am here.”

It took her several agonizing moments, unable to breathe, before she could ground herself. Her fingers finally found and dug into one of the bruises on her arm. Pain brought her back--it was the single constant in her life--and she could think straight again. Her preparations were even more frantic and hurried after that, and she dropped her phone when she initially grabbed it.

She grabbed it up off the floor, noticing the two messages Canaan had sent while she was sleeping:

Text to Jewell: Thanks cher. But stop apologizing.
Text to Jewell: There's nothing wrong with you.

She actually laughed. Nothing wrong with her. Jewell couldn’t remember a time when there wasn’t something wrong with her.

Text to Canaan: You know that's not true
Text to Canaan: But thank you

She hesitated before sending one more message because she didn’t think he wanted to hear it, but it was true:

Text to Canaan: I miss you too

She hadn’t a clue as to what she had actually packed, but it didn’t really matter. It would have to do as would the hasty glamour she wove around herself--not a hurt visible on her flawless skin, rounded ears, and hair like midnight. A pretty dream out of some Irish fairy tale.

Jewell sent two more texts on her way out the door:

Text to Sin: seven… eight… nine… ten
Text to Sin: Ready or not, here I come
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 02, 2018 1:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

January 27, 2018

“The Starlight Basin…” Belladonna repeated.

“Apparently it’s a relic that will--”

“I know what it is,” she snapped. She well knew the Tale of the First Changeling. Little Jewellsie wasn’t after a new face though, was she? No no, she had sent her knight off into the Far Lands so she could procure something much more vital. “She wants my heart,” the unseelie sídhe concluded.

“She wants your heart,” the Earl confirmed.

Belladonna calculated her moves. She could run. Hide. Wait until after the fourteenth and come back to the city. She narrowed her eyes at him, “And you’re just going to let her get it, aren’t you?”

“Nonsense. Do you think I want her well, stronger than ever, and angry at me? Come now, Bella. Besides, what would I do without my closest ally?”

“Closest ally,” she scoffed. “Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”

He smoothly escaped her wrath, “I needed to confirm the details first. I wanted to be sure that was what the knight is after.”

“And you grabbed one of her people without telling me. Do you know how many fae I lost trying to take the witch?”

“You were taking too long to get the information we needed.”

She growled, “I’d like to see you go after a blood witch with no preparation.”

He shook his head. “A lesson for you Belladonna: go after the low hanging fruit if you can get it. Her daughter? The witch? They are too near and dear to her.”

“I’ve told you before, Earl: I don’t want the low hanging fruit. I want to hit her where it hurts the most. Besides, you went after the kindred lover!”

Earl waved her argument away, “That was different.”

She rolled her eyes, sinking in her chair as she turned pouty and petulant. “So you say. You get to have your fun but I never have any at all. Perhaps I should just run, hm? Hide? Make sure there’s no way she can get my heart, and then she’ll die and your little Theo will go insane.”

“The great Belladonna, running from the dying Empress?”

“Don’t try to con me, vampire,” she leaned forward, hissing at him. “I’m not running from anyone.”

“No no. Of course not. However, you will miss your chance for making her suffer as much as possible in her last moments if you are gone--”

“Hmph.” Bella sat back, arms crossed.

“But if all you wish to do is protect yourself and ensure that she dies, then I suppose that is an acceptable plan.” He watched her shift, her gaze anywhere but him. “On the other hand… we could have some fun.” It was doubtful if Lord Ténèbres even knew what the word fun meant.

“Fun?” she sorted. “Like what?”

“We will drain the witch dry before this is over. Would that please you?”

“Perhaps.” She continued to play aloof, unwilling to concede.

Lord Ténèbres’s smile was an unpleasant thing. “And of course there are all those other friends she loves to deal with: the knight, if he should return, and the girl; the kindred lover and that half-demon she’s fond of.”

She looked into his dark, soulless eyes, “You have a plan?”

“I have a plan.”

Belladonna finally grinned, “Well, I’m listening.”
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 02, 2018 2:06 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

February 1, 2018

Coming back to RhyDin after several days in Madrid was like waking up from a pleasant dream into a living nightmare. Jewell’s heart was still failing more every day and the cure was further out of reach every day, but she couldn’t just give up the fight no matter how much she might want to since she still had the promise made to Sapphire to fulfill: “I promise I will survive this. No matter what.”

A seemingly impossible task. Survive with Belladonna after her. Survive against the ire of the Night Court. Survive despite the minutes of her life ticking away so rapidly now. Fourteen days. That was all she had left to figure out how to defy death a second time.

Once again, she had to break the enchantment around them. It was only a matter of time, and she had put it off long enough. “The heart plan isn’t going to work.”

His thoughts had been wandering elsewhere -- around a book and a group of men huddled over it, around a small shadow-like creature he sent into the woods weeks before, around the perfect creature whose company he was sharing -- and he snapped back to reality as he looked across the room and toward her.

It was raining, and the sound of the gentle pattern against the long, tall windows of the Deadwood punctuated the brief silence that followed as he lifted his eyebrows and processed her statement: the heart plan isn’t going to work. “It has to work,” he told her as he turned himself away from the window and focused his attention on Jewell. “We have to make it work.” What other choice did they have?

The rain was pleasant and soothing, a song from her mother element, and the company more so, but even her smile for him could not fully erase the gravity of her expression. “I knew it wouldn’t work when I came to you in Madrid.” She had been running from the truth then, but there was nowhere to run now. “Ishmerai isn’t coming back with the relic, and they know about the plan even if he does somehow make it back.”

His expression wasn’t necessarily reproachful, but it was knowing. “You’re backing yourself into a corner,” he murmured as he moved closer to her, gravitating like a moth to a flame. “You’re not destined for failure. Don’t let yourself fall into that mindset.” The Spaniard reached for her, extending out one hand, palm raised as his face became neutral again. “But if it does fail -- then it’s time to look for another plan.” There was always another way. Always.

She knew he would know and possibly even understand, or at least not hate her for keeping it from him. “Wild creatures are most dangerous when they’re in a corner, Sin,” she admonished as she placed her hand in his, craving the reassurance of his touch. She needed to be at her most dangerous if she wanted to save her own life. “And I do have an idea…” only then did Jewell hesitate. “I don’t think you’ll care for it,” she admitted, quiet and anxious. Her heart fluttered a little and her fingers curled around his in response. Don’t go no matter what I say.

“What if I don’t need to live? What if--” she took a deep breath. “What if I just need to survive?”

He eased onto the couch beside her, his mouth twitching up at one corner for her chiding as his fingers wrapped around her own; he brought his other hand to place it on top of both of theirs. He wasn’t going anywhere, no matter how terrible her idea was.

“The difference between living and surviving is prancing, my ru—“ He paused mid speech, catching the edge of intent to her words. A frown crossed his face. “What do you mean?” She couldn’t be planning what he thought she was planning. Could she?

Her broken little heart was elated, as always, at his use of my, but quavered just as quickly at his frown. She licked her lips before pressing them together. This was harder than she expected, but she heard Theo’s offer so clearly: I don’t want to kill you. I’d much rather give you a new life and keep you forever. Jewell simply could not accept her own mortality. “What if…” again she took a trembling breath to brace herself or perhaps him, “what if I was kindred like you.” As much as she might want to, she did not look away from him.

He did not respond immediately, though his hands remained on her own. Sinjin looked deeply into her eyes — he could practically sense her fear, her desperation and want — but even her tentative offering made whatever soul he had squirm in his chest. He did not allow himself an instantaneous reaction; that would be cruel. Instead, he took a deep, unnecessary breath, and spoke softly.

“I became a kindred because of my best friend, Chaus,” he began. “He was unwillingly sired by his old lover, Diab. He was — miserable, really. It didn’t suit him, and Diab was crazed. So we found an old ritual that allowed someone that, instead of a siring, was an exchange. He would gain his mortality back and the other would become kindred.” His lips thinned into a thoughtful line, his expression distant. “I didn’t have much for myself at the time. I was working as a whore, I had no family or friends here other than Chaus. I offered myself. The person who I was — he died that day. There’s still a headstone on the shore that we put up as a joke, but it felt real enough to me. I became Sinjin Fai. I became— this.”

Now he looked away — not for anything Jewell did, but for the little ember of hate he could feel burning inside himself. “I’ve lost.. almost everything over the years from this. I lost who I was. I lost my friends, my family. My sister won’t look me in the eye. My addictions have driven away what I once had with Salvador. I became obsessed with power and risk and I rolled the dice and lost again and again. The man who taught me how to be a kindred — I hate him and I love him, and I will die someday like he did because of all the failed calculations he’s made. I can’t feel like I used to. Every touch is distant, every pleasure is incomparable to the taste of blood and violence. I pretend. Most days it helps. I’ve learned to be comfortable in solitude.” He went silent for a moment, not even realizing his glamour had flickered away as he trailed deep into his thoughts, leaving a pale shell of a man holding Jewell’s hands.

When he looked back at her, his chill fingers lifted, reaching to cup her face with a deep sincerity and concern that he could not hide. “You, Jewell, are one of the most alive people I have ever met. You’re right. Like this, you won’t live — you will just survive. And that frightens me.” His brow furrowed, his voice still as quiet as a whisper. “Are you sure there is no other way?”

Her face was wet when he touched it, not because she was scared of this potential path laid out before her (although in a way it terrified her even more than death itself) but because she loved even the shell of who he once was and wanted to soothe his anguish and loss. “I don’t know. Eva told me about a surgery, but for what? A few meager, stunted years where my heart can fail at any moment again? So we can sit here together and have this conversation four miserable years from now? I can’t--” Anxiety tightened her chest and made her breathless at the thought that she could be doomed to live a life that at all resembled the last year she had spent in almost constant misery. It was more than I can’t; it was please don’t make me.

Her voice was quiet and small, “Every day I wake up and I am in pain. And every day I wish that I didn’t wake up—that day or any day. I catch these little moments of life in between, but they’re not enough. And everything they did to me, it’s just never going away. So maybe…” she looked down at their hands linked together rather than his grey eyes. “Maybe it’s just time? If I can’t be whole, maybe I could be someone different. Maybe I want to be if I can’t just die because I can’t. I have to survive in some way. I promised.” Jewell squeezed his hand tightly, “And this way, you wouldn’t be alone.”

He knew that this was not a conversation where either of them would walk away content or feeling better. There was nothing to win, no great solution to find -- it was an internal compromise on how Jewell would live her life that he was bearing witness to. The sound that escaped him wasn’t really a laugh, but it was a soft chuff of air that made him tilt his head down and avert his eyes at the unintentional, but bitter pill her last words chased into him like a wolf nipping at his heels. But when he lifted his eyes again, that moment had passed; he swept her tears away with the pads of his thumbs and leaned in, pressing a gentle kiss to her cheek.

“I can’t make this choice for you,” he told her. “I know what I want to tell you and what I think you should do, but I haven’t lived your life. I don’t bear the same weight that you’re carrying. And I--” He stalled, and steeled himself, because though she hadn’t spoken it, he knew the question was coming. “I can’t sire you, Jewell. I’m sorry.” Sinjin dropped his hand to her own again, squeezing it. “But if this is something you choose, I will help you.” The thought frightened him -- the last thing he wanted was to become Ambrose and that felt more real every day -- but he wouldn’t abandon her like he had been so long ago.

“I don’t choose it, but I fear it’s been thrust upon me now.” She was dismayed that she had somehow hurt when she had meant to soothe, and that he would not do what she had not yet asked of him, but her relief was greater. She could not bare the thought of asking him to do anything that would only hurt him more, or the way he might have viewed her after if he did it. And she was grateful that he saved her from putting her request into words. The day she sat on Kalamere’s couch, covered in dust and soaked in Ishmerai’s blood, and asked him to kill her was a moment which still featured regularly in her nightmares and was one of a hundred painful memories that she could not forget. It served as an eerie parallel to how she sat with Sin now, but he was a very different man from the half-elf she had loved so foolishly, and at least he didn’t ask her, “How do you want it done?” No, instead he offered his help willingly for something he did not want her to do at all so that she would not be alone. Jewell would never forget that ever.

Foolish words were already forming on her lips, but they were the only thing she could offer him in return for such a priceless gift, “But I promise I will only do it if I feel I absolutely must, and I think I know how.” Jewell lifted their hands joined together, pressing her lips to his knuckles with a smile not befitting their grim conversation, “Tell me darling, what do you think about letting the Night Court sire me and then burning it down together?”

((Written together with Sinjin <3))
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PostPosted: Fri Feb 02, 2018 2:53 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

When the Empress finally returned to the sanatorium, five girls were waiting for her: Lavanya, Janel, Almast, Philomena, and Abene.

Jewell was surprised to see them. She stood in the lobby, staring. “What are you all still doing here? I told you the fight is over. Go home.”

They stood as a united front against her, ignoring her command. “This is our home,” Phil insisted.

“Have you given up already?” Janel followed up her sister’s assertion, arching a finely shaped eyebrow at her.

The faerie shook her head, “No.”

“Do you have a plan?” Lavanya challenged next.

The sídhe thought over the weekend spent with Sinjin and their conversation after and nodded slowly. It was a terrible plan—like every plan she had created from letting the Temple of the Divine Mother unlock magic to letting Kal kill her. Ishmerai believed she had a knack for awful plan-making, and he seemed to be right but it was a plan all the same. “I do.”

“Then we’re staying,” Allie stated simply. “We’re staying through to the end, whatever that is.”
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PostPosted: Sun Feb 04, 2018 12:24 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

February 2, 2018

Jewell sat at her vanity, staring down at the collection of makeup, jewelry, and blades spread across the surface. She was supposed to be getting ready for her birthday party, but instead she just sat there thinking about how she so rarely organized her belongings. It was a terrible habit, really. She didn’t even wear makeup too often, but she liked to collect the pretty, shimmery powders in different colors and could never resist bringing home a piece of sparkly jewelry, a new dagger, or set of throwing knives.

The result was a mess.

Maybe, after everything was over, she would be more organized. More on top of things.

Maybe she would be different.

“The person who I was — he died that day. There’s still a headstone on the shore that we put up as a joke, but it felt real enough to me. I became Sinjin Fai. I became— this.”

On the anniversary of the day of her birth, it seemed fitting that Jewell would contemplate her death--just twelve days away--but such contemplation scared her. Her injured, failing heart quaked, and her arms scattered a necklace and broach to the floor when she buried her face within them.

Jewell did not want to die.

She did not want to die a true death but neither did she want the person who she was today to die, trapping her in the hell-like existence Sinjin had described. She would not be able to feel like she did now, and suddenly the constant pain she was in felt like a blessing. Her sense of touch would be distant, and she savored the memory of Kal’s kiss against her forehead as he stabbed her in the heart. Every pleasure would prove incomparable to the taste of blood and glory of violence, and she mourned the simple yet soul-fulfilling delight of being with someone she loved.

Instead of a vibrant life lived to its fullest, she would have solitude. And oh how she feared solitude the most! Solitude which had nearly destroyed her in Faerie, turning her bitter and cold.

Sitting there, curled forward at her vanity alone, the little faerie cried with the abandon of someone truly and hopelessly lost. The way forward was obscured, and she lacked the conviction she held when she faced the end of her life just last year. Then, she had been determined to sacrifice her own future to save her loved ones pain. It seemed too much to ask that she make the same sacrifice to save herself pain now.

“Ishmerai,” she cried, her slender shoulders shaking in her anguish, “please… come back.”
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PostPosted: Mon Feb 05, 2018 7:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

February 4, 2018

“Tell me,” Jewell insisted firmly.

It had been weeks since she had last seen dear Teddy, but she did not rejoice when she observed what the passing time had done to him. He was a wreck, unkempt, making a fool of himself as he apologized again and again, begging for her forgiveness. It was granted graciously, and Jewell had even settled comfortably on his lap, but only after he had asked if he was allowed to touch her again while he grovelled at her feet.

She had enjoyed the grovelling, but it was to her benefit to play nice now. The Empress had need of him.

“He wants--” Teddy seemed to struggle between loyalty to his house and father, and devotion to the woman he had his arms around so possessively. The bond tying him to the charming sídhe won out, and the plan burst forth in a rush, “He wants to have you sired, angel. He can’t let you die. If he lets you die, then who knows what will happen to me as a result. He said it’s too great of a risk, so we must Embrace you. And if you won’t consent to it on your own, he says he will force it upon you. Won’t you consent, angel? If you would agree to it, it will go easier for you.”

Theo continued to plead, but Jewell was too busy desperately trying to kill her smile and suppressing the urge to laugh bitterly to listen to him. How fortuitous that her potential plan aligned so closely with the Earl’s! After her conversation with Sinjin, she had had her doubts. A true death would likely be kinder and more bearable than an unlife as kindred. She was a creature of light and life, after all, and no one knew what the Embrace would actually do to her.

But this put her doubts to rest. It made the path readily clear before her. She would not allow them to force this upon her, though. It had to be her decision. So Jewell decided now: If the Night Court wanted her? They could have her willingly.

Idiots.

There was only one piece of the puzzle she did not understand. She interrupted Theo’s pleas--he was asking her to spend eternal life at his side--“What does Belladonna get out of this, Teddy? If you get me,” she deftly undid a few of the buttons of his shirt, her fingers brushed across his bare chest, shamelessly teasing him, “she gets…” Jewell trailed off, unsure.

He was distracted by her gesture, by her, but still tried to focus and answer her questions. He wanted to answer her questions. “I don’t know. I asked and asked because I couldn’t bear the thought of her hurting you, but they wouldn’t tell me. They don’t trust me anymore.”

What Belladonna could possibly get out of this deal nagged at her, but she would figure that out in time. She had over a week still. For now, she laughed, a husky quiet sound as if it was all a secret joke between the two of them, “And they shouldn’t, should they? Because you would tell me if you knew, wouldn’t you dearest?”

“Of course,” he brushed her blue hair over her shoulder, away from her neck. “Anything to help you.”

“Mmm,” she smiled. “You still truly want to help me? Even after all I’ve done to hurt you?”

“Yes! Of course, angel. You mean everything to me. I know you didn’t mean to hurt me. You’re too sweet.” He brushed his thumb over the weak pulse at her throat. Time was truly running out.

Jewell nodded slowly as if still contemplating this weighty decision, but it had already been made. If Ishmerai did not return… “Then I think I should let you, Teddy. Let you help me, I mean. You have offered me a priceless gift: to help me survive. To free me from this pain. I think you should. I want you to.”

“What?” His green eyes narrowed as if expecting some sort of trap from the faerie. Maybe he wasn’t as stupid as she thought. “Truly?”

“I think it’s time. My heart…” she took hold of his hand and placed it over her breast, in the conveniently low-cut dress she just so happened to be wearing, where her heart beat unsteadily on, “it hasn’t got much longer, Teddy. I don’t have much longer.” This at least was true. The kindred failed to notice how warm her skin was as the iron burned her constantly. What little energy she had was drained quickly as her body tried to heal itself over and over again, undoing the continual damage inflicted upon her by her treacherous, poisoned heart.

In ten days, the iron would win.

None of that mattered to Teddy. He was elated. “Oh angel, this means we could be together! Nothing will part us if you let me do this for you.”

Except your true death. “Yes, we could be together. It will be wonderful, won’t it? And together, we could rule the Night Court, couldn’t we darling?” It was a mockery of the question she had asked Sinjin in earnest coupled with a gentle caress of Theo’s cheek.

He caught her hand, kissing it. “Anything you want, angel. Anything just to be with you.” Theo held her tighter and nuzzled at her neck. “Let’s do it now.”

“No no no,” she gently pushed him back, trying to tame his eagerness. “Not until the fourteenth.” The knight had promised he would return. She owed Ishmerai the chance to fulfill his promise no matter how unlikely it was now that he would.

He frowned, “Why wait, angel? I want your suffering to end. I want to be with you now.”

Her smile was coy and full of promise. “So be with me now.”
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 06, 2018 6:15 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

February 6, 2018

Although she felt fairly certain that Ishmerai would not return in time and that her fate and continued existence was therefore in the hands of the Night Court, Jewell felt obligated to at least give the appearance of planning to save her own life. She had told Sapphire she would do her best, and in a way she had made a similar promise to Sinjin: “I promise I will only do it if I feel I absolutely must.”

She could not give up so easily. There was also still the fear of unlife to face and the idea that if she did not have a plan in place and Ishmerai did manage to get home, all his trials would have been for naught.

The Empress pulled out her phone, flipping through it until she found the group list Sapphire had created for her labelled Team Awesome.

Group Text to Team Awesome from Jewell: I think I got everyone on this list?? Mallory, I don’t have Eri’s number
Group Text to Team Awesome from Jewell: Can we meet at RhyDin Grind this afternoon/evening to chat?
Group Text to Team Awesome from Jewell: I’d like some help in trying to save my life

Group Text to Team Awesome from Sapphire: I’ll be there!

Group Text to Team Awesome from Jewell: No. Everyone except you. Stay home or I’ll kick your ass.
Group Text to Team Awesome from Jewell: Also, stop sleeping with your phone under your pillow

Group Text to Team Awesome from Mallory: tagging eri in. we’ll be there.

* * * * *

Jewell got to RhyDin Grind thirty minutes before everyone else was planned to be there just to give herself time to fret in the little section--with clear sight lines to the front door and the door leading to the kitchen--she had chosen to have this powwow with her friends. There was a couch and several comfortable looking chairs surrounding a coffee table, but the Empress could not sit still for more than thirty seconds. Every time she sat down, she was up again immediately. Even once everyone was there and seated (or standing with their arms crossed and holding up a wall as Sal was wont to do), she couldn’t seem to settle down.

“Okay… so,” Jewell was off to an awkward start already, running her hand back through her blue hair. “I had hoped Ishmerai would be here to do this, but he’s not so I’m trying to figure it out here.” She took a deep breath, “I think you all know I’m dying. Kal stabbed me in the heart last winter with iron and it’s been slowly killing me ever since. And Mallory,” she nodded to the witch, “divined a few weeks ago that it’d stop beating on February 14th, a year to the day from when Kal stabbed me.

“Conveniently, there is a sídhe running around these days that just so happens to be my twin from a different timeline. So the plan to make sure I don’t die again is to steal her heart and use the relic Ishmerai brings back from Faerie, which Mallory so kindly discovered for me,” she gestured to the witch, “and steal Belladonna’s heart and make it my own.”

The wall was staring uncomprehendingly at the back of Jewell’s head. She could feel it. When she turned her head to look, she realized it was Sal looking at her this way. How easily he could blend into the background and become one with the environment. His brows were pulled together and accented a severely puzzled expression. She was used to Sal, but it still made her a little uncomfortable. It didn’t help that her heart was acting funny and she had downed at least one cup of coffee before they all got there. She lifted her brow in question, and that was all the prompting he needed to actually speak.

“I don’t understand.” That much was obvious. “Why,” he asked, “do you need this heart specifically?” And, said the pause. “What relic?”

Jewell shifted so her back wasn’t to anyone for the time as much as possible, but she addressed Sal mostly. “It is a heart equal to my own because she’s me. There is no chance of rejection, and there is little chance that it will change me at all. Mallory will have to explain the relic.” She looked to the witch expectantly.

That answer did not appear to fully satisfy him. Salvador’s brows remained knit and he frowned but said nothing further. His scrutinous gaze also affixed to Mallory. He shifted just slightly, pressing his shoulder into the wall as if to scratch an itch, and waited.

“The relic,” Mallory began, leaning forward from where she sat indian-style on the couch, “is the Starlight Basin, one of the so-called relics of the old gods. In Faerie — in Jewell’s version of the fae realms, anyway — the first gods became what they were by consuming and absorbing each other’s bodies and power, using their vital essence to make these traits their own… and as if they had always been their own. As if the Three-Faced Lady had always had each face, and always had the lump of coal in her throat that let her poison with her words, when those traits were almost certainly stolen from other beings.

“As far as Jewell’s body would be concerned, there would be no year where the iron poisoned her heart and weakened the rest of her.

“But, the way the first arch-fae used their magic is worlds apart from the magic of Faerie today. To tap into that transformative, identity-altering power, we need something enchanted by these beings, like the Starlight Basin, to alter the magic flowing from both Jewell and Belladonna and complete a ritual to give each the other’s heart… and change their bodies as if that had always been the case.”

The witch leaned back slightly, glancing aside to Eri on the couch, then looked closely at Sal and Jewell as she raised her mug for a slow sip. Unfortunately, Salvador’s expression had not much changed. The hard furrow of his brows and tight frown indicated that Mallory’s explanation had only confused him further.

“Right,” Jewell played with the end of her sleeves, tugging them down over her hands, “that. Because it’s not just my heart anymore. The iron has been eating away at me more and more for months now. It’s why I get so tired. It’s continually burning me everywhere, and my body keeps trying to heal itself only to get burned again. If all I get is a new heart? My body will still be poisoned with iron so much that it’s unlikely I will survive anyway.”

“Okay,” Salvador said slowly, his tone a disgruntled mumble. His crossed arms constricted tighter together and he shifted uncomfortably against the wall. “So why are we here? What do you need us to do?”

Jewell bit her cheek hard enough to taste her iron-tainted blood. “You don’t have to be here, but when,” she wanted to say if but she was dedicated to maintaining this front now, “Ishmerai returns, I’m going to need help getting the heart. Belladonna knows I need it now and she’s aligned herself with the Night Court, so there’s likely to be some faeries and vampires to kill when the time comes.”

“If we can locate her or draw her out, I can bind her with your blood,” Mallory offered, then paused, frowning thoughtfully. “But… if someone else can find her and bind her until you can take her out, would it be better for me to keep out of this? Just chill with you, Jewell, readying the ritual, until the others have Belladonna in hand?”

“I think she’s going to be easy to find,” Jewell admitted. “She’s not running.”

“Why the **** wouldn’t she run?” the witch asked almost immediately. “It’s what I’d do in her place. Wait out your death in some extraplanar hole.”

Jewell added in an abashed rush, blushing, “I maaaay have blood bonded one of the Night Court members to me and he spilled their plan with um… some encouragement.”

Though Sinjin had been silent up until this point, this made the other Spaniard lift his head from where he had been staring in thought at the floor. His eyes darted twice -- once to Jewell and once to Salvador, his expression inscrutable -- before he looked aside entirely again, muttering an absent curse under his breath in his native tongue.

“Still doesn’t answer why,” Mallory muttered, her frown deepening.

“I know.” Jewell finally stopped her anxious movements, settling down on the arm of a chair. “He didn’t know, and I can’t figure it out. But the Night Court doesn’t want me dead now because of the blood bond. Their plan is to have me sired instead, and she seems to be going along with it for whatever reason. Which means they’re both invested in me not getting the heart, so if we go for it,” she forgot to say when this time, “I think they’ll be waiting. But as to why she’s going along with it? What she’s got up her sleeve? I just… I don’t know.” It had been bugging her since she had chatted with Theo, but the answer was still elusive. What did Belladonna want more than Jewell’s death?

Cane, silent until then and motionless in his wingback chair, finally stirred. He cleared his throat, a quizzical expression on his face. “Is there some reason we’re waiting? Why aren’t we getting the heart now?” His gaze darted briefly toward Salvador where he was holding up the wall, then back to Jewell.

Mallory’s curious gaze turned from her boss back to Jewell, drumming her fingernails on her giant mug of coffee. The thought of going after the deadly faerie queen weighed all the heavier once she considered how much sooner the confrontation could come…

Jewell paled, her heart in her throat and her voice quiet, “I was waiting for Ishmerai. There isn’t… there’s no point if he doesn’t return.”

The Cajun shook his head. “But we’d have it. The bitch would be dead, she wouldn’t keep ****ing with you like she’s been, you could ditch whatever this bond to the Night Court is. **** ‘em all. Then all we’re doing is waiting for Ishmerai.”

“We need her alive,” Mallory began gently, “but -- ”

“So then we kidnap her,” Cane interrupted.

The witch nodded, looking back to Jewell again.

She was shaking her head. “No. At what price? We do this and then Ishmerai doesn’t come back and who gets hurt in the process for nothing? Who loses their life for nothing?”

“But you said people are already getting hurt,” he countered.

“I already told you that if this doesn’t work, we’re feeding her heart to the pigs anyway, and I meant it,” Mallory said. “This isn’t a matter of if we’re killing Belladonna. I’m not living with that murderous bitch stalking our steps any longer than I have to,” she added with a scowl, shooting a look aside to Eri and back.

Eri glanced over to Mallory and nodded firmly. The delinquent’s shoulders rose in a shrug. “I get the feeling she would hold a grudge forever. Best to shut it down. The best defense is the attack.”

“Well then kill her after I’m dead,” Jewell snapped, standing again. “I’m not having any more blood on my hands for nothing.”

The Cajun scowled at her. “Going by your logic, how is going after her now any different from going after her when Ishmerai is back? People die now or people die then. Personally, I’m of the opinion that you happen to have a few aces up your sleeve who can more than handle it. Sal’s literally built for this kind of ****,” he said, gesturing toward the Spaniard with an aggressive toss of the hand.

Jewell wrapped her arms around herself defensively, “It’s different. Now? There’s no hope. We’d be risking everything for nothing.”

“You’re not nothing,” Sal said sternly. The Cajun’s brusque gesture had made him twitch and look elsewhere. Now he straightened his posture, tense. “And Cane’s right. This is what I’m built for.” A dangerous, literal gleam passed through his irises.

“They’re right,” the elder Spaniard murmured quietly, coming back again. “We have some potential to be able to play this time to our hands. Take her and the Night Court off guard.” Lord knows that Sinjin knew how to make a ruckus with that group.

“Can you bind her?” Mallory lifted her chin to look at Sal. She had some idea how deadly he could be.

“Do you actually need her alive?” Cane interjected. “Or can you do the ritual with a heart that’s been… preserved?” The inflection implying supernatural means.

Mallory shook her head, though her eyes narrowed at Cane’s intonation. “Only if it was still beating… then… maybe. Maybe…” She muttered a few quiet curses and bent over the armrest, rifling through her backpack for a certain heavy, lead-lined box. She pulled it into her lap with a grunt, and took some time undoing the locks before removing the Primordial Vitaeum.

Amante?” Cane asked, lifting his gaze to Salvador expectantly. Sinjin’s eyes followed along and ended up on Salvador too, the kindred’s shoulders straightening.

“I can keep it beating,” Salvador confirmed simply. There again passed the preternatural shimmer through his eyes. A savage smile split the Cajun’s face in response.

Mallory let out a sudden laugh, not entirely appropriate for the topic at hand. “Well that’s ****ing brilliant, because I can ****ing do it!” She slapped her hand against the grimoire’s ancient, faintly gleaming pages and grinned up at everyone. “It’s been done that way before. I’d have to completely change the structure of the circles I’ve been practicing, but a beating heart would count as a living participant in the ritual.”

“Gross,” Sinjin quipped cheerfully.

“Blood magic,” the witch shrugged blithely, to which Salvador, strangely, smiled.

Jewell had fallen silent, subdued both by Sal’s assertion that she was not nothing and their rapid planning which went against all her wishes. She was grasping for something, anything but ended up just sinking onto a chair, defeated, when she came up with nothing instead. “When do we go after her?”

Wordlessly, Sinjin reached from where he was sitting and touched her shoulder; it was alright, and this could be the answer they were all seeking. She refused to look up at any of them, but her fingers sought his and wrapped around them in response. His hawk brown eyes lifted up, focusing on Salvador and Canaan. “The sooner the better, I imagine—” And then his gaze snapped to Mallory. “How long do we all need to prepare?”

“If you don’t need anyone to bind her,” she said to Sinjin, with a quick glance aside at Salvador, “then all I need to do is practice the altered ritual. It should take me a little less than an hour to perform the spell once… Ishmerai comes back with the relic,” she added, fingers tensing around the edge of the grimoire in her lap. “If I can take the day off tomorrow to practice my circles…?” She looked between Cane (who was already nodding), Sinjin, and Jewell. “I’ll be ready.”

The kindred nodded. “Then -- assuming all that goes as planned -- all we need to worry about after kidnapping her is any ire from the Night Court or her other allies afterward. Yes?” He lifted his eyebrows as he looked around the group of them, seeking confirmation.

The pressure on her chest was suffocating when she thought about her conversation with Theo just two days ago and how great the Night Court’s ire would truly be. Jewell nodded, staring down at the points of her shoes, her answer almost inaudible, “Yes.”

In contrast, the sinner looked abundantly relieved. “Then let me do what I do best. I’ll mind the Night Court.” Sinjin had a small list of skills, but Irritating Ruckus was high on that list.

The faerie didn’t bother to hide her gesture of finally releasing Sin’s hand so she could reach into her pocket, withdrawing her little tin of pills and popping more than one under her tongue. She could talk around them easily enough, “Just tell me when we’re going and we’ll do it and deal with the fallout later.” Clearly, she was including herself in the Kill Belladonna plan even if she was as weak as a kitten and her skin was on fire, her body feverish from the constant, cold burn of the iron.
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PostPosted: Tue Feb 06, 2018 6:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Isuelt was late, mostly because she had missed out on the group text. She had never gotten the hang of technology and that was just fine with her. However, upon getting the note that Jewell needed help, Isuelt set out immediately. Once at the Rhydin Grind, she spotted the group in the corner between the front door and the kitchen. From her frenzied pace, she came to a standstill behind one of the couches and nodded deeply to Jewell in apology before she took a quick glance around at the mostly familiar faces.

While Jewell seemed genuinely pleased to see Issy, going so far as to actually smile despite her misgivings about how the conversation had gone, Mallory took the old grimoire -- currently open to facing pages depicting magic circles and dissected bodies -- and flipped it shut as soon as she saw the Scathachian, heaving it into the lead-lined box in her lap with effort. If the vigilante had not been there to hear anything about the ritual they planned to perform, she saw no need to enlighten her now.

The only thing that Isuelt had a more difficult time trusting than technology was magic. And to her, what was important was how her weapons might be used, how Jewell needed her to help. The actions that had occurred nearly a year ago, which started this unraveling of the Empress, bothered her only slightly. And most of her regret had come in not to undermine the witch or the others that helped that night, but that Isuelt herself had not been able to act more quickly to prevent what Kal had done. Mallory had little to fear from this warrior; her blade was sworn to Jewell and to all who would defend her. She was already privy to some of the information that Jewell had shared with her. Isuelt was simply awaiting her orders.

“Remember when I said we were going to steal something, Is?” the faerie asked her friend. This at least was familiar: planning trouble with Issy.

The witch followed Issy’s gaze to Jewell, trying to transmit a silent question to the faerie with that look, at which Jewell looked to Mallory and the others. “Someone else catch her up,” a regal command from the Empress coupled with a boneless sink into the chair. She was already at her limit for the day it seemed.

“Tch.” That little sound was as openly annoyed as Mallory was willing to be with Jewell, at the moment. She looked down at the lead box in her lap, locks still unclasped, and back up at Isuelt. “What do you know about Belladonna?”

Isuelt blinked to Mallory. She knew that the witch couldn’t be talking about the herb. Isuelt swallowed and floated her gaze quickly over the faces gathered before it rested back on Mallory and shook her head, but softly.

“It’s the name adopted by the evil version of Jewell, from another version of RhyDin, who’s set herself up as the Faerie Queen of Little Elfhame. It’s her heart we’re planning to steal — to rid our Jewell’s of its iron.” The witch leaned forward, steepling her fingers beneath her chin, waiting for dispute or question from Jewell or Isuelt before continuing. The Empress smiled at that but let Mallory tell her tale.

Soberly, Isuelt nodded. “Along with the knight’s relic…” Her voice barely impacted the air around her. Jewell had already told her some of the ideas a short while back. But she was still unclear as to the particulars, which frankly could be none of her business. She chanced a glance to Jewell as she wondered if Ishmerai was back yet.

That perked Jewell up, but only a little. “Which he hasn’t produced yet.” Her tone implied that she did not believe he would anytime soon and that this was all a big waste of time. She had apparently dropped the pretense of hope and faith she had affected at the start of this little pow-wow.

Isuelt chewed that over for a moment before she spoke again, “He’ll do his part. We will do ours.” She was looking directly at Jewell, and held her gaze for a long moment before she nodded once and returned her attention to the witch. Somewhat ashamed, Jewell went back to studying her shoes.

Mallory’s own expression seemed troubled over the subject of the knight’s absence, but when Isuelt’s attention shifted back to her, she composed herself quickly. “Right now, the plan is that Salvador kills Belladonna -- the sooner, the better -- and brings us her still-beating heart. Then I just wait until Ishmerai returns with the relic, and…” She hesitated for a moment. “…use it to ritually switch the heart with Jewell’s. Everyone’s big worry right now is about the aftermath of killing Belladonna. I don’t know what her followers might do, and there’s a vampire court involved in this mess, too. They’ve aligned themselves with her, so I don’t know what they’ll do when she’s gone… but they might try to kill everyone involved, like Belladonna’s own goons have been trying lately,” she added with a growl.

There may have been a tremor of her expression when Mallory reported on killing Belladonna; however, it could also be said that Isuelt’s eyes narrowing slightly may have been more of an eagerness rather than an objection. However, the talk of vampires did give the warrior cause to sigh. “Well,” she began, “It seems to me that we will have our work cut out for us.” She locked eyes with Mallory. “I will be ready.” While Mallory may not have trusted Isuelt, Isuelt did at least give the witch the courtesy of hearing her out. Jewell trusted her, which meant quite a lot as it turned out. So the least Isuelt could do was back her. For now. After all, she backed Kalamere once upon a time, too.

And they all knew how that ended.


((The February 6, 2018 events co-written with the lovely Team Awesome gang <3))
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