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A Fractured Kingdom (Fates.Gamble x Alexandra1405)

alexandra1405

Mischief from Down Under
Joined
Dec 7, 2018
Messages
11
#1
The evening could have been any other, the blanket of darkness slowly being drawn over the thatch roofed city and towering citadel as windows were cast in an amber glow of candlelight. One by one their glass flickered a warm gold, just as stars twinkled behind the low laying clouds that had been slung in the sky all day. There was a breeze, the kind that was not gentle or soothing, but rather foreboding as it snaked through the cobblestone streets and shadowed alleyways. Barely any souls were out on the street, the chill to the air keeping them tucked away in their homes or warm in the many taverns at the corners of once bustling streets. This city had been peaceful once, only several years before but feeling to most like decades. Where the city had once been bustling, often decorated with colourful ribbons on any given occasion, it had now been squandered to a place of trepidation and unease. Only in recent times, had pure terror been unleashed.

But that was not the case on this night. Whatever terror that had occurred during the day seemed to be hushed and slumbering. The war, afterall, was quite some distance away; the frontline where the two factions met head to head with feverish rage. These factions had been warring for several years, and there seemed to be no sign of peace. That, of course, had all changed that fateful morning when the news had spread of the deaths. First one, and then the other; leaving the people, as a whole, confused. Now, several years on, one would have thought that a hiding place would not be deep in enemy territory, but that’s exactly where it was. Deep behind enemy lines was exactly where Arielle hid, and where she plotted to continue her father’s legacy.

The table was made of forest pine, its edges rough and surface notched with the dark stains of knots that had once been willowy branches. Atop it sat several jugs of amber mead and copper ale, scenting the air of the small room with honey and spice. A sole candle sat in the centre, the wax the colour of dark crimson as it dripped slowly onto the pine tabletop. Shadows flickered, casting fives figures along the walls of various heights and various shapes. They all leaned toward the table, most clasping their chins in a hand or elbows at the edge of the table as they listened keenly. Listened and did not dare speak. Between them all was a piece of parchment, the candle having been placed at the top corner in order to illuminate the elegantly scrawled hand in dark ink; several graceful words and one single date. Arielle’s smile was something akin to wickedness as she tapped the dried ink of the date.

“We all know what this means,” she spoke softly, her tone hushed though unable to hide the silvery notes of her voice. Her eyes shone brightly in the golden glow of the flickering candle, her face illuminated to reveal their brilliant colours; one a soft oceanic blue and the other a vivid forest green, both rimmed with hazel gold. A red wisp of hair fell into her face, though it was quickly swept aside and tucked behind a pierced ear. “We only have three more weeks in order to prepare before we must act. They will be at their weakest, their most vulnerable, and it is about darn time that we make a move.”

A man, his jawline obscured by a greying beard and eyes just as steely, leant forward as his thick brows drew together in a frown. When he spoke, his voice was rough and breath smelt of ale. “I think that you are mistaken if you believe they would not be taking every precaution during this time,” the man, Morteus, spoke surely. “If we wanted to make an impact, we need to move sooner.”

The smile faded, not in disappointment but in thought as Isadora chewed on Morteus’ words and considered his suggestion. Three sets of mundane eyes gazed between herself and the man seated opposite her, curious to hear her response and thoughts on such a matter. Morteus certainly had a point, he always did. He was three decades her senior and seen battle many of times. As lips parted and Arielle began to speak next, there was an almighty bang on the wooden door downstairs. All five tensed, Arielle gritting her teeth.

None moved, at least not for a moment as they considered their options. Arielle quickly stood, the chair groaning as it dragged across the wooden floor with the movement. Snatching the parchment, rolling it quickly and turning to tuck it behind the bookcase at her back, she rolled out her shoulders. “Marienne,” she murmured over her shoulder. “Answer the door and apologise for the delay. Do whatever you must in order to give us time.”

The only other woman in the room, blonde hair knitted tightly at the back of her head and threaded with strands of silver hair, nodded. Marienne stood, brushed down the browns of her dress, and disappeared from the room as the others began to scull their mead and ale, hiding the jugs and paced towards the concealed window at the corner of the room. But just as quickly as the knock had come, there was another fierce smash; a door hitting against the wall as it was burst open. Several heavy sets of footsteps clambered upward toward the attic in which the four were. Arielle swore rudely beneath her breath, just as the door to the attic crashed open.

The doorframe was consumed by the bulk of a brute, dressed in leathers and dark cotton. Straps were pulled tightly over broad chest and thick arms, daggers aplenty, a basic pistol slung low on his hips. This man would have been the kind to strike fear in the heart of any innocent damsel, and it should have done so to Arielle. Yet, sharp chin tilted upward, teeth grit as vivid eyes met the soldier’s defiantly.

“And the rumours are correct,” the brute, Dex, ground out, seemingly partly amused that he had found them hidden away in this particular attic and with the fact that the gossip on the street had been correct also.

Arielle frowned deeply, Morteus cracking knuckles as he moved to her side. “And to what do we owe the pleasure of your surprise visit?” She could list many things that could be reason for her impending capture; none of them with pleasant consequences.

“He requests your presence,” Dex huffed impatiently, not particularly interested in the young woman’s banter.

Her frown deepened. “He? Does he have a name, or is that going to be kept a secret as well as his intentions?”

“The King.”

The people about her in the room stilled almost immediately, the room growing uncomfortable with the tension that began to blanket them. Marienne darted up the steps and almost ran into the back of one of soldier’s behind the brute in the stairs. Arielle’s eyes were briefly pulled toward the blonde woman, though quickly returned and narrowed at the brute. “Well,” she said with poison, “I best not keep the King waiting.”

* * * One Hour Later * * *

Arielle wasn’t particularly dressed in her best attire but, then again, why should one care for the thoughts of a man that had a price out for her head? The King, as far as she was concerned, was a shadow of his late father just as she was of her’s and the blood feud certainly wouldn’t end simply because their patriarchs were six feet under or ash. Where many women would have been dressed in silks and lace and all things elegant in order to be in his presence, Arielle found it rather amusing that she was being carted toward the looming castle in her brown breaches, darker brown woollen knit and forest green cloak that was edged with the fur of a brown wolf. Her only decoration were the leather belts loosely draped around the flare of her hips, and the three thin, delicate golden hoops that pierced the shell of her left ear. She had always been striking, regardless of what she wore; her hair made sure of such a fact, as red as flames, and the smattering of golden freckles across her cheeks, the bridge of her nose and the hidden curves of her collarbones.

The soles of her knee-high leather boots were quiet over the cobblestones as she was shepparded toward the stone menace of the castle. Still, she was yet to know of the King’s intention, and whether she’d be keeping her head for all that she’d done in the name of liberation. Pale hands were squeezed tightly into fists at her sides, a silent promise of a strike should any of the bulking men dwarfing her handled her a little too roughly. They passed through the raised gate, the guards either side not paying them any attention as she was shoved toward the stairs. Arielle hissed through grit teeth, cursing softly before she made her way into the bowels of her enemy’s home behind the brute that played messenger.

This place had always been a rabbit warren to her, even when she was a little girl and was still welcome within the stone walls. The twists of the hallways and turns of corridors did not help orientate her, Arielle doing her best to count the steps between turns and memorise each twist. Quickly, though, she found herself lost until she was guided inside the throne room.

It was not of its former glory, its colours dreary and gloomy; dull shades compared to the vibrant tapestries that once hung along the walls. Arielle was not surprised, and a little smug when she noticed this. The throne, however, was just as menacing as she remembered from her youth, and her throat bobbed with a deep swallow. Ushered forward by the men at her back, Arielle rolled out her shoulders and refused to kneel as the soldiers did so before their sovereign.

“I would apologise for my attire,” Arielle growled, eyes searching the King’s face, that had once been so familiar, “but I was not given very much notice, nor invitation.” The smile she gave him was bitter.


 

Fates.Gamble

Revendeur de Destin
Joined
Oct 11, 2012
Messages
230
Location
Somewhere out there...
#2
Hadrian stood before the oriel window of his chambers, gazing out into the distance as the setting sun melted back into the horizon. The sky was awash with color, setting the clouds ablaze with orange fire even as the velvety purple of twilight moved in from the East. It was a strikingly beautiful sunset, yet Hadrian found himself too distracted the fully appreciate the sight. A million different thoughts plagued his mind, though none quite so loud as the bloody war he’d inherited. Of course the conflict had gone on long enough that it had been a concern for most of his life, but now that he wore the mantle of king it practically consumed him day and night. He wasn’t sure how many more hours long discussions of strategy and underhanded ways of murder he could withstand before losing his composure over this whole mess. 20 years of strategy and they were still no closer to putting an end to this war. Clearly, things needed to change.

Fortunately, he’d already taken the first step in that direction. Whether his efforts achieved anything remained to be seen. Even if the information was correct there was still a fair chance his proposal would be denied. As things stood he was anticipating a refusal, and already contemplating what he should do in that event. The uncertainty left him feeling restless, driving him to step away from the window and fill his wine goblet for the third time this evening. It wasn’t enough to cloud his senses but the pleasant buzz relaxed him some. Aside from drinking, he spent the wait considering what he would say when the time finally came. It wasn’t often that he found himself lacking for words, but then he’d never been in a situation quite like this one before. Even as the last rays of sunlight faded to reveal a canopy of stars, he was still unsure of what he would say to her.

Hadrian was torn away from his thoughts by a knock at the door, followed by the booming voice of the guard standing watch. “Lord Auden to see you, Your Grace.”

“Show him in.”

A moment later the door swung open to permit his guest. Auden was an older man, though if not for the snowy color of his full head of hair and neatly trimmed beard, you’d be forgiven not to believe it. His skin was yet untouched by wrinkles and his posture still appeared youthful and strong. Yet, one could not deny the age behind his voice, nor the wise spark that burned within his gray eyes. Such wisdom had guided Hadrian many times in his life, even before he ascended to the throne. Auden was one of the few men he felt he could trust, and for this reason, he was the only one among the council who knew what he intended.

“Your Excellency,” Lord Auden greeted him, issuing a slight bow. “It appears the rumors were true. They’re bringing her now.”

“Good.” Hadrian’s lips pulled into a soft smile. He wasn’t certain how things would proceed from here, but simply catching his prey was victory enough. One way or another, he would finally be putting an end to this war. He knew which way the lords of his council would prefer this to go, but hopefully he could do so without further bloodshed. “My father would likely turn in his grave if he knew what I was about to do,” he said, averting his eyes for just a moment before meeting the man’s stormy gaze once more. “Tell me… Do you believe I’m making the right decision?”

“May I speak plainly?”

“Always; you are my most trusted adviser.”

Auden seemed to consider it for a moment, before speaking his piece. “I served King Leander for over 30 years. Few men knew him as well as I did, and I can say with confidence that had your father thought more like you then he might not be in the grave in the first place. A wise ruler extends the olive branch before his sword.”

Another smile spread across Hadrian’s face at the response. The words of encouragement were all he needed to stow away the doubts and move forward with this plan. “Thank you, Auden. Have our guest brought to the throne room.”

”At once, Your Grace.” Another bow and the lord took his leave, heading out to intercept the returning group of soldiers.

Alone again, Hadrian drained the rest of his cup, savoring the taste of peach and apricot that teased his tongue, before double-checked his appearance in the large mirror across the room. His pitch black hair was as unruly as ever, running just past his ears. It suited him though, giving him a wild and dangerous look. At the very least it set him apart from his father, whose long, straight hair reached to his shoulders. The rest of his features were a different story. He had the same eyes as his father; intense, vivid eyes the color of sea foam. He’d inherited his father’s strong chin and jawline as well. He bore a leaner face and a slightly longer nose, yet the ghost of their old monarch was quite evident in his son’s face. He may have considered himself fortunate; for everything he was, Leander was a handsome man, after all. But, it was hard to believe the tyrant was dead and gone when the man sitting the throne still looked so much like him.

For attire he wore a stunning, deep blue surcoat embroidered with the royal crest of his family: A crowned, stark white raven, centered over a pair of crossed swords with wings spread wide. The colors popped against the long, black sleeves of his undershirt, and his black, soft leather boots. Dressed as he was he practically looked ready to hold court, if not for the notably absent crown on his head. He wore another treasure of the royal family on the fourth finger of his right hand though; an ornate silver ring set with a rather large emerald. The lustrous gem caught the torchlight, making it radiant and alive.

Satisfied, Hadrian left the mirror and headed for the door, so as not to keep his guest waiting. He gave a firm nod to his guard waiting outside, and the two of them set off through the halls. Hadrian could feel the anticipation rising as they neared the throne room, every step taking this closer to being a reality. It wasn’t just the proposal that worried him, in fact that felt simple compared to the backlash he was sure to receive. The lords and nobles invested in this war would not be pleased once they learned how he intended to end it, but their ire was preferable to bankruptcy or death, both of which seemed likely if it dragged on much longer. He had to do what was best for his people, not just the rich, stubborn old goats presiding over them.

Hadrian couldn’t help but think of how different this place looked the last time Arielle would have stepped foot in his home; In those days this castle had been vibrant and beautiful. He could still recall the sweet aroma of his mother’s favorite wild flowers which she insisted be placed throughout the the vast fortress. Those were the first to go, his father too devastated by the loss of her to bear the flowers reminding him of the late queen. The other happy mementos and beautiful works of art were soon to follow, devolving their once gorgeous home into a dark, joyless citadel while his father sank ever deeper into depravity, driven on by the losing war against the man he once called friend. Even now this place felt a barren husk, eerie in its silence while shadows cast by torches skittered across the stone walls.

One of the many changes I’m going to have to make around here, Hadrian thought of the castle’s drab state of decor. Practically every day of his coronation had been spent fighting this war, maybe if this worked he could finally have time to get to everything else.


Another contingent of guards were waiting for them in the throne room, along with the rest of his councilors, all eager to catch a glimpse of the traitor’s daughter who no led the rebellion against him. Every man stopped what he was doing and bowed as their sovereign arrived. “My lords,” he greeted them before approaching the short flight of steps leading to the throne. He couldn’t help but think it would be better if the council was absent for this. Very few of them favored a peaceable solution to this mess, adding an extra layer of tension he didn’t need right now. But, while his intentions for the woman remained a mystery to his councilors, it was only by there help he was able to find and apprehend the girl at all. It was their right to be here.

It still felt surreal for him, climbing the steps to sit upon what still felt like his father’s throne. Truthfully, the seat of power was every bit as menacing for him as the subjects who knelt before it. It wasn’t just its appearance, though that was plenty ominous as well, with its gnarled legs of black stone, and arms that protruded into the heads of two furious ravens with eyes that burned into those that stood before them, judging in silence. For Hadrian it was more about the responsibility the ancient seat embodied, and the choice he would have to make whilst sitting upon it. Choices which would hopefully prove better than those of the man before him.

The king took his seat just before the group arrived with Lord Auden at the front. After showing their respects, his loyal adviser joined the rest of the council beside the throne while the soldiers moved off to the side, standing vigil and presenting their ruler with his prize. Hadrian locked his gaze upon her, eager to see if she was as beautiful as men said. He felt a touch of guilt over being so concerned with her appearance; what he did was for political reasons not his own enjoyment. Still, there was a chance he could be spending the rest of his life with this woman, how could he not be curious? The last time he’d seen her she was a still a little girl, and those memories were scarce as best. She no little girl anymore..

That fiery mane of red hair was like a beacon in the darkness, drawing a man in just so to find himself lost in her beautifully odd, mismatched eyes which even now seemed to burn with righteous fury and defiance. She apologized for her attire, an obvious attempt at mockery even if she didn’t dress it with a bitter smile, yet Hadrian couldn’t help but think the look suited her better. After all, what sort of rebel queen ran about in skirts and dresses? He did not express his approval, of course, but he couldn’t stop the smirk it caused. The others were not nearly as amused. All eyes were upon her, most accompanied by scowls and disdain. One man, donned in leather armor with flowing, silver hair and a long, braided beard stepped forward.

“You stand in the presence of His Majesty, King Hadrian Aldrich,” he announced, his voice gruff with fluster, “It is customary to bow before your liege.”

“That’s enough,” Hadrian silenced him. One look at her and he knew she would never bow before him. She was too strong for that, and it wouldn’t do to make her feel subservient going forward, even if she would. “You’ll have to forgive me as well, Lady Arielle,” he said, giving his full attention back to his esteemed guest, “I did not take you as the sort of one who doted over formal invitations. After all, you had no trouble inviting yourself into my lands. I’ll admit, you’re a bold one hiding and operating from behind enemy lines… But also foolish to think I wouldn’t learn of it. My father taught me long ago that rumors can be worth more than gold to a man that takes the time to listen… One of his more useful lessons.”

Hadrian leaned back, relaxing as much as was possible in a massive chair of solid stone. “I’m sure you’re wondering why I’ve brought you here..” If she ventured a guess no doubt she thought she would soon be losing her head. He was curious to see her reaction once she learned the truth. “Well, let me start by saying you have my condolences for the loss of your father. I did not know him well, but I recall he was kind to me as a boy. But, then, your father did take up arms against mine. He betrayed his king and friend alike. What’s a spot of kindness compared to starting a brutal civil war which has claimed 10’s of thousands of lives? Though I suppose it’s irrelevant now, isn’t it? You’re not your father, and I’m not mine.”

He paused for a moment, considering his words. “You should know: Ending this war is my primary concern as sovereign of this realm. And considering you’ve been skulking about behind my borders, I have to assume it’s your primary concern as well.” Doubtless she had some grand scheme for removing him, now unquestionably foiled. “Looks like you lost your chance to me.” His eyes shifted to the lords at his side, noting their hungry expressions and pompous smirks as they watched her. This would be a lot easier without their murderous glares beaming across the room. “Leave us,” he commanded, extending his voice to the posted guards as well, “All of you.” There was a moment of hesitation, along with looks of surprise and displeasure, but no man dared to refuse the order. Everyone shuffled on, the grand set of double doors sliding on oiled hinges to slam closed in their wake.

Hadrian sighed, caught somewhere between relief and awkwardness as the two of them were left utterly alone. Rising from his throne, he moved to approach her, his stride slow and confident as he descended the steps. “They want to see you executed,” he told her, nodding towards the direction his subjects had gone. “Can’t say I blame them; you’ve done well in taking up your father’s mantle… Raiding my lands, harassing my armies, destroying their supply trains… It’s like he never even left. Well forgive me, Lady Arielle, but your father was a fool, and so was mine. They were obstinate old men, dead set in their ways and all too willing to see our country burn.”

Hadrian came to a stop just a few feet ahead of her, standing tall and clasping his hands behind him, at the small of his back. He appraised her with a calculating look, trying to gauge her thoughts on all of this so far. I, on the other hand, do not want wish to see our country razed to the ground. My people starve and suffer, as do yours, all while we continue to breathe life into an argument that started long before we were old enough to understand why. Tell me true… If I said we could put an end to this war here and now without further bloodshed, would you do it?”
 

alexandra1405

Mischief from Down Under
Joined
Dec 7, 2018
Messages
11
#3
Soft blush lips parted as a smart quip came to the tip of Arielle’s tongue in response to whoever it was that had been bold enough to demand that she kneel in respect before the tyrant. There was no need however, as the King reprimanded the man who’s voice had been extravagantly pompous. Like a child hiding behind the skirts of their mother, smirking as the wrong sibling was told off for a broken vase, Arielle’s smile was something along to devilish mischief. Blue and green eyes swept over her audience, taking in the faces that seemed to either sneer or scowl at her presence and defiance to kneel before the man they considered sovereign. Vivid eyes were quickly drawn back to the man seated so casually atop the throne as the King next spoke.

Oceanic blue eyes made Arielle’s jaw tense as she grit her teeth, her own eyes narrowing just slightly in contemplation of what it was the King had been scheming. There was no doubt that eventually she would be found, and her conspirators exposed, though she had to admit that it had been far sooner than she’d expected. A mole, perhaps, had been in their presence when she’d sat at that table drinking sweet mead in candlelight. A narrow shoulder rose and fell in a dismissive shrug, Arielle not particularly caring for the fact of who it was that addressed her. Though, the corner of her mouth twitched in the beginnings of a smirk as she was called a Lady. How darn ironic and amusing.

Yet, for all of her faults for being a traitor to the crown, Arielle gave the King one act of respect; she listened whole-heartedly as he spoke without interrupting once. He must have liked the sound of his own voice, she decided, and she wondered whether the end to the war would be Hadrian talking his troops to death. The imagine that was conjured in her mind made her smirk and hide her face for a singular moment, red hair tumbling about her face in a curtain of curls. When the King demanded that the throne room be made empty save for the pair of them, blue and green eye rose to meet the King’s face, cautious and wary. Like a beast backed into the corner, the hairs at the back of her neck tingled as hands came to clench into fists at her sides. The corner of her lips rose in a half-grin as Arielle rolled out her shoulders and began to pace, one foot perfectly in front of the other as if she were walking on a line. A line that just so happened to curve and circle the dais and throne.

“Do you know what interests me most?” Arielle’s voice carried on the echo, made to sound hollow as the throne room laid bare. Chin tilted upwards just a fraction as Arielle rose her eyes to the cavernous ceiling above them, her steps silent and her movements precise. If she was not a perfect resemblance from a fox, she very well could have been a cat. From the corner of her eye, as she became level with the King but to his right, she smirked. “Is the fact that you have called your traitorous enemy a lady on two seperate occasions.” Four quick steps and Arielle had disappeared, no longer in Hadrian’s view. There was not a single sound that could give her away, not from the soft breaths or from the shift of her cloak. Nothing. But when she spoke next she was much closer than Hadrian perhaps would welcome.

Pale hand shot out from behind the tall back of the throne, lithe and bronze freckled fingers clasping threateningly at throat, albeit that the hand was a little too small to catch the entire width of Hadrian’s neck. The warm breath tickled the King’s cheek as Arielle leaned out from behind the throne and over his shoulder.

“Don’t you find that interesting?” She mused, squeezing tightly as the notch in his throat pressed into the flesh of her thumb. It was only for the briefest of moments, for as quickly as Arielle had clasped Hadrian’s throat she also released it. As she did so, as any smart individual would do if they had dared to catch the sovereign by the neck, Arielle quickly disappeared again. When she spoke next, it was from the corner of the room far behind him; a strategic maneuvour that would force Hadrian up and out of his throne if he truly wanted to continue this conversation face to face. “You forget that your people are mine, and that you also stake a claim to those that have chosen me. The answer to your statement before is yes, my father never really has left. I would have thought that you could remember that if I inherited anything from my father, it was the stubbornness of an ox.” Copper brow rose, Arielle grinning wickedly once more. “Or did you forget so much about me that that also slipped your mind?”

Arielle had found herself a rather decrepit looking table, the wooden top rough and gouged from years of use. At its corner, she leans against, long legs gracefully stretched out before her and crossed at the ankles. Slender arms had come to cross over her chest, cloak slipping down to reveal one narrow shoulder and the bronze freckles that decorated the milky flesh of her neck.

“What is it then?” The playfulness seemed to evaporate, the edge to her voice harsh as she spoke and frowned deeply. “I’d hazard a guess and say that you’ve been contemplating this for some time now. Where you seemed to have forgotten a great deal about me, at least I remember that you much prefer to chew on a decision for several days, if not weeks. Don’t you know it’s impolite to keep a woman waiting? Tell me what is is and entertain me.” The shimmer to Arielle’s eyes was a promise of trouble.
 
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