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A Fractured Kingdom (Fates.Gamble & Alexandra1405)

alexandra1405

Mischief from Down Under
Joined
Dec 7, 2018
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 lying 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 many years, and there seemed to be no sign of peace. That, of course, had all changed one 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 textured 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 five figures of various heights and shapes along the walls. 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 as bold as this.”

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 Arielle 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 had 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 knotted 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.”

~~~

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 woolen 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 shepherded 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 handle her a little too roughly. They passed beneath 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 had been 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.
 
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Fates.Gamble

Revendeur de Destin
Joined
Oct 11, 2012
Location
Somewhere out there...
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 woman 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?”
 
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alexandra1405

Mischief from Down Under
Joined
Dec 7, 2018
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 knelt in respect before the tyrant. There was no need however, as the King reprimanded the man whose 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 akin 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 he next spoke.

The determined glimmer in those 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 rather amusing.

Yet, for all of her faults for being a traitor to the crown, Arielle gave Hadrian one act of respect; she listened whole-heartedly as he spoke, without interrupting him 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 image 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 eyes rose to meet the King’s own, cautious and wary. Like a beast backed into a corner, the hairs at the back of her neck tingled as hands clenched 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 raised her eyes to the cavernous ceiling above them, her steps silent and her movements precise. If she was not a perfect resemblance of a fox in her colouring, 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 separate 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.

A 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 around him 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 maneuver that would force Hadrian to turn 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? A shame, really, considering I thought we had been a rather mischievous pair in our youth.”

Arielle had found herself a rather decrepit looking table, the wooden top rough and gouged from years of use. She leaned against the sharp corner, 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 and collarbone before disappearing beneath dark green knit.

“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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Fates.Gamble

Revendeur de Destin
Joined
Oct 11, 2012
Location
Somewhere out there...
Arielle’s confidence was something to be admired, Hadrian decided. She stood before him bold as could be, all smirks and displaying no fear over her current situation. If ever there was a cause for fear, this would be it. She was trapped in a den of wolves, most of them more than eager to tear out her throat, after all. There would be no rescue if he decided to end her life here and now, and he knew exactly what his father would say about it. Cut off the head of the snake, and its body will wither and die. Well, he wasn’t so certain of that philosophy. Her father was dead and gone yet the war lived on. This rebellion was a many headed snake; remove one and another would surely take its place.

Despite her rebellious air, Hadrian was surprised by her patience and attentiveness. No doubt she had a great many negative comments for him on the tip of her tongue, but held them at bay and drank in every word. A quality of a good leader, he thought. Whether she kept an open mind along with good listening skills remained to be seen. He’d found cracks in her stoic, cocky attitude, at least. There was no hiding that look of wariness as the rest of the men were dismissed, leaving them utterly alone. He took interest in this, noting how the unease had only crept in once they were alone. Perhaps she was more intimidated by him than she led on. Regardless, she was quick to change tact, her air of confidence returning with her brazen approach of the throne.

Hadrian watched her like a walk, sharp green eyes taking in every movement. The perfectly cat-like way in which she moved was captivating to say the least, but the king kept his expressions well guarded. He sat still as stone, a pillar of confidence in his own right even as she circled around him out of view. Even so he remained painfully aware of her presence, knowing that graceful stride of hers came with the reflexes to match. She could likely lash out and pose a serious threat from her position, yet he was not perturbed; not even as his suspicions came true, and Areille’s hand shot out and took him by the throat. It was his turn to smirk, as he saw right through the veiled threat. She was no fool; any attempt on his life and she’d never make it out of this castle in one piece. She may have been willing to die for her cause, but willfully throwing one’s life away was another matter.

As expected, she released him a breath later, the ghost of her touch still lingering across his throat even as her hand was removed. Her swift and sudden change of location was more successful in catching him off guard, however. He found himself on his feet, whipping around to face her. His once smirking face devolved into a frown over her retorts. “Your father’s treasons haven’t changed the circumstances of your birth. I still remember the noble girl who walked these halls before you decided to follow in his footsteps. But, formalities don’t really interest me at all, if I’m to be honest.” He fell silent after that, granting her the same courtesy of hearing what she had to say. Apparently she was slightly more concerned with observances; but as long as they were tearing each other apart it didn’t really matter what claim they had over the masses. They could call them ‘our’ people all day long and it didn’t change a thing so long as the kingdom remained split in half.

“I haven’t forgotten anything,” he assured her at the end of her little speech. Such obstinacy was his biggest concern regarding this meeting. He quietly feared that she would not be as open minded as he hoped. Stubbornness and pride could easily fuel the fires of such a war. Their sires were more than enough proof of that. “I only hoped you would be more than your father was. It would be a disappointment if you were content with merely being his shadow.” Whether or not that be the case, she seemed more than willing to hear him out at the very least. That showed a higher level of diplomacy than she man she took after. In all the years of conflict never once did they attempt to sue for peace. Yet even as she stalked off and leaned against the table, demanding he come out with it, Hadrian felt his eloquence slip away.

Yes, he’d been contemplating this for some time now; basically from the moment his eyes fell upon his father’s cold body, and yet he still did not know how to do this properly. As the crown prince he never expected to make such a proposal. He’d always known he would marry for political gain eventually, but he’d long since accepted it would be a woman of his father’s choosing; one that would secure a powerful enough ally to put an end to the rebels once and for all. Now here he was, about to ask for the hand of the rebel leader herself. Funny how things worked out sometimes…

Sucking in a breath, Hadrian appraised her for a moment before finally deciding to get on with it. He stepped forward, closing some of the distance between them, and looked her right in the eye. “I would rise you up from a Lady and make you a Queen,” he told her, getting straight to the point. No doubt that would be the entertainment she was looking for. He wouldn’t be surprised if she took it as a joke at first, though there was no denying the seriousness in his gaze. “I would take your hand in marriage and make our people, our kingdom, whole once again.” He paused a moment, letting her absorb the weight of what he was suggesting, before he went on with specifics in hopes of abating any concerns she might have. “Should you accept, I would have you come and live here with me, where we shall rule our kingdom together, along with an amended council comprised of men we each know and trust. I don’t expect reform to happen over night, of course… But I believe that together we could have a chance of finding our way down that path. That is, assuming you’re at all capable of being less stubborn than your father.” It would never work if they weren’t at least willing to consider each others council.
 
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alexandra1405

Mischief from Down Under
Joined
Dec 7, 2018
Arielle was very rarely stunned into silence; a witty retort always at the ready, just in case. Now, though, would be one of those very few occasions, as she remained leaning against the rickety edge of the table with arms crossed over her chest. The cool air of the throne room licked at the partially revealed shoulder, bare freckled skin prickling with the chill. She didn’t dare allow herself to shiver, not willing to gift Hadrian a chance to mistake such a movement for a reaction to his proposal. Not particularly what she’d expected, given the way she’d been dragged through the cobble streets by the scruff of her neck like a kitten. Arielle wondered how long the man before her had been pondering such a thing. Was this purely motivated by his wish to end the war and the rebellion? Or was it motivated by something a little more foul, trying to stamp out the fire in her and the revolution? Either way, it was admirable. Almost.

The smile that tugged at one corner of her mouth was one both wicked and cruel, as she tucked a lock of fallen copper hair behind pierced ear. “And what thought have you given to explaining such a thing to the people? Do you honestly believe that simply marrying me by name will sway the believers of the revolution?” Fiery brow rose in curiosity as she pushed away from the table and straightened, though her arms remained crossed and stance rather defensive. Arielle wasn’t quite fond of surprises, Hadrian having immediately put her on the defensive. “By joining our houses, you’re not going to end this. Think about it, Hadrian, these people believe in a better world and crave something more. They’re not going to stop until that’s exactly what they get and so they shouldn’t.”

Arielle wouldn’t admit it, but while she peppered him with questions, another part of her mind was considering what he had offered. Perhaps such an agreement would give her an ear to whisper in, an ear that would listen to the voice of the people. The difference was, Arielle wasn’t interested in ruling the people, and was a strong believer that that was exactly what this kingdom didn’t need. She voiced just as much.

“I do not want to rule,” Arielle spoke calmly, not rough and not accusatory despite the slight frown of her brow as she took his features in. “I do not think these people need to be ruled, Hadrian. I think that they need to be listened to and guided, don’t you? They’ve festered in filth for so long, under the thumb of generations of sovereigns that dictate. It might have served a purpose once, when this world was cruel, but it doesn’t serve any purpose now. This kingdom is growing, as is its people; they are wise and intelligent in their own right but they don’t need someone to dictate their lives for them anymore.” Uncrossing her arms and folding her hands together between her hips, Arielle’s stance became that little bit more open as did her thinking. Perhaps this wasn’t an entirely terrible idea, and with some negotiation they could do right by the people after all.

Clasping at the cloak about her, she tugged it tighter around her frame. “I don’t remember the throne room being quite so cold when we were younger. In fact, I remember it being the warmest space. I suppose quite a lot has changed in the time my family and I have been absent,” her blue and green gaze was cast upwards at the stone carvings in the ceiling. “If I’m truly to consider your.....offer, I need to think it through. I can’t give you an answer now. You have put me on the spot. I think there is also some negotiation to do before I even consider accepting.” Rolling out her shoulders, sharp chin dropped as her gaze lowered from ceiling to Hadrian’s gentle face. “Is there a time when you must know the answer?”
 
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Fates.Gamble

Revendeur de Destin
Joined
Oct 11, 2012
Location
Somewhere out there...
The chamber seemed to fall deathly silent after his proposal. It held that unsteady sort of chill that would permeate the air after some official had just unwittingly offended his father… One of those lingering moments when every man stood still and silent while someone’s fate was caught in a breath of indecision. But unlike a tyrant weighing one man’s life in the palm of his hand, this decision would have far reaching consequences. It was hard to tell what those might be once Arielle responded with a smile. Hadrian prided himself on his ability to read people, but this particular woman was proving quite difficult. He wouldn’t dare let it show, but already he was beginning to question his offer to put her in a seat of power. If he couldn’t read her intentions, who knew what she might do behind his back?

Yet however cruel her smile, the concerns she spoke felt genuine enough. Perhaps Arielle was just playing coy, everything from her tone to her body language a game meant to throw him off. Of course he knew simply joining their houses wouldn’t be enough to end this. He didn’t expect the people to see them married off and say ‘Well that’s that.’ She may have denounced his plan, claiming it wouldn’t work, but he took notice of the fact she hadn’t outright refused the proposal. “One way or another I will end this war,” Hadrian told her, his intense eyes boring straight into her own. “Killing each other is the easy way; we’ve been doing that for decades. What I’m suggesting promises to be far more difficult.”

Arielle managed to wrap them up in semantics again before he could say much more. He listened to her speech without interruption, weathering her doubts all the while. Like many she appeared to underestimate him; chalking him up to another potential tyrant before he could get a word in edgewise. It was all rather frustrating, carrying the sordid reputation of his predecessors along with their blood; even though he’d done nothing to earn it. “Call it what you like,” he replied once she’d finish, “Ruling, Guiding, Dictating…” He cared as little for semantics as he did formalities. “The fact remains that the people need strong leadership in these times of chaos. That duty falls squarely on our shoulders. Do not mistake me, Arielle… As I’ve said I am not my father. He believed he knew what was best for everyone. If I thought I knew what was best for everyone I wouldn’t be inviting a sworn enemy to lead them by my side.”

He wasn’t certain if his words swayed her, nor even if she could be swayed at all, but her posture did appear to shift by the end of their brief exchange. Whether persuaded by his reasoning or for her own reasons, he still couldn’t say, but she seemed to at least take his offer into consideration. Hadrian prided himself on both his confidence and assuredness, yet something about putting himself out there in this way inflicted him with a touch of anxiety. Already he was planning his contingencies; what would his next move be if she refused? Demanding her head or her hand seemed like something the previous king would do no matter how man times he denied the likeness. And yet, it may very well come to that. How they would proceed if she accepted was an even more foreign concept. He’d concerned himself so much with a refusal that it was hard to believe she’d give a favorable reply at this point. Despite the torrent of vexation within, he remained placid without, betraying none of it. He’d long since mastered the art of keeping his emotions hidden beneath the surface; of keeping his true thoughts hidden from the monarch he served.

While Arielle clutched at her cloak and complained of the cold, Hadrian’s eyes followed her gaze and took in the vaulted ceiling of the grand chamber housing them. He’d scarcely noticed the chill amid all the debate, but there was no denying the empty shell they now stood in. Four large braziers gave them just enough light, basking them in its soft, orange glow, but it did little to warm their bones or pierce the equally chilly desolation.How many years had it been since they walked these once vibrant halls, he wondered. It was so long ago now he couldn’t precisely remember. “Times change,” Hadrian was forced to admit, a bit of sadness for those lost days lingering on his voice. “I intend to see that they change for the better from here on out.”

Once she brought up the proposal again, Arielle snagged his attention once more. A lot of that taunting disposition seemed to flee her, and Hadrian was relieved to see she appeared to be taking this seriously. A faint smile pulled at his lips at her response. “Of course… I didn’t expect an answer tonight. This is no small decision and I could not accept a reply that was not given ample consideration.” That said, there was still the concern of how much time warranted such a thing. Given the circumstances and the viable threat she still posed, he was hesitant to give up his advantage by giving her enough time to claim the upper hand. “Let us say within three days. If we can’t come up with a favorable solution by then I doubt marriage will be enough to save us.”

Hadrian smirked as he folded his arms across his chest and appraised her with a more serious air. So, the wheels had been set in motion at least. The only thing to do now was determine exactly how this negotiating would play out. “I assume you will need to run this turn of events past your men before anything else? You should know, I haven’t spoken a word of this to my own. This proposal comes with the utmost discretion, and until I have your answer I would like to keep it that way.” Many of the lords would not be pleased once they learned of this plot. In fact, Hadrian was counting on their disdain. It was just another piece in his grand design. Those who proved too loyal to his father’s ideals were men he had little use for.
 

alexandra1405

Mischief from Down Under
Joined
Dec 7, 2018
Shifting her weight back and forth from the balls of her feet to her heels, purely out of anxious habit, Arielle’s laugh was dark as Hadrian mentioned running the offer past her men. “I don’t need to discuss it with them,” she spoke sharply, voice edged with a little harshness at the suggestion that she would need approval in order to decide what would be best. “Especially not considering that I am the bargaining chip in this deal. Just between you and me....” she leaned forward, a couple inches closer to Hadrian as she rose onto the tips of her toes and whispered; “I couldn’t care less what most of those old badgers think about this deal. It’s my future as much as it is this kingdom’s and I’ll be damn sure to make the decision for myself on my own.”

Dropping back down onto her heels, Arielle flashed him a bright smile, something that came with a glimmer of trouble. Her hands smoothed down the cape about her, rolling out shoulders and plucking at a stray piece of fur. “I will have my answer for you by tomorrow’s eve at the latest.” Blue and green eyes scanned the room, taking in the decrepit features that had once been magnificent. “I suppose that this is as far as your hospitality extends,” Arielle murmured, wondering whether Hadrian would be brave enough to invite her to remain under his roof while she contemplated her conditions of the deal. She doubted it, and it showed upon her face in a rather smug smile that lifted just one corner of her mouth. Given her reputation and how quickly she was able to switch hot to cold, she assumed that Hadrian would be wise and not extend such an offer; in case she decided to take a knife to his throat in the middle of the night and really put the issue to bed. Could she manipulate him to invite her? Could she toy with his thoughts and get him to wish her to stay? Hadrian hadn’t been particularly easy to mess with when they were children, forever stoic and particularly uncaring to her childish pranks and traps. She wondered whether he was still the same now, and whether he wouldn’t be amused by her meddling with his head in such a fashion. Still, she couldn’t help herself.

Her footsteps clicked softly over the floor, the heels of her boots now making noise as she wished them to where once they had been silent. Arielle had the entire throne room to move around Hadrian to make her way to the door, eager to leave the space and allow her mind some space for thought without his presence. Yet, as if the pair of them had been caught in a narrow corridor and she had no other option, Arielle slowly brushed against Hadrian’s side, blue and green eyes looking up at him alluringly. She wondered how close to the door she might get before he next spoke. It was her shoulder at first, pressing against the center of his chest before she moved past and drew it over his arm, the motion of her movement making him turn slightly in place to avoid becoming unbalanced. Then, side by side, it was flared hip and entire length of her arm that pressed at Hadrian’s side; a dare. Her smile was as wicked as it was devilish, as Arielle peeled herself from him and moved toward the door. Two could play this game; cat and mouse, and she had a fairly good suspicion as to who would win.

“I will find you at nightfall,” she called to him from over her shoulder, not turning to look back at him but the fierceness of her voice carrying with an echo. “Do yourself a favour, Hadrian, and don’t spend all of tomorrow looking for me. I’ll find you.”
 
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Fates.Gamble

Revendeur de Destin
Joined
Oct 11, 2012
Location
Somewhere out there...
Hadrian was somewhat amused by the sharp tone of her retort. He was glad to see she was a woman of her own mind and not simply crafted and led by the men who served closest to her. Of course, being so strong willed could just as easily prove a hindrance as it could a blessing. He was letting a lot ride on the hope that this woman was open minded enough to work with him; he would not be so easily dismissed when it came to making important decisions. Everything he’d seen so far proved her a strong willed individual, but he would not let it intimidate him. He was every bit as confident and strong as she hoped to be, and he had no problem showing as much if he had to. But as things stood, he wanted to prove he was malleable as well; absent of the infallible stoicism that had brought ruin upon the last king.

“Good, then,” he told her, sounding pleased over her declaration. “It seems we’re of the same mind here.” At least, he hoped so.

Hadrian had to admit, Arielle’s mannerisms made it very difficult to ascertain her true thoughts or motives. He couldn’t tell if the aloof way she rocked on the balls of her feet was something out of habit, nervousness, or maybe even excitement. He was much more stony by contrast; more stiff than usual. It wasn’t like him to be so petrified in a woman’s presence. Indeed, Hadrian had enjoyed his time with more than a few beauties over the years. He had no lack of interested parties as the crown prince, and usually he bore the charisma to match the title when they came calling. But it was different with Arielle. Having heard his proposal, the power was all in her hands now. Everything weighed on her decision now, and she seemed to know it. It almost felt like she was toying with him; a cat with a ball of string. She’d be sorely mistaken if she thought she could unwind him…Hopefully. He still couldn’t see through that bright smile, or that devious fire in her eyes. But Arielle had always been that way if what he remembered of her held up… Always trying to lure him into some game.

He nodded as she set her own deadline. It was quicker than he expected of her, especially since they hadn’t done much in the way of negotiation just yet, but he was content with the apparent haste. The sooner they came to an agreement the better. Her question brought a smirk to his lips, and he allowed his eyes to wander, drinking in everything she seemed to be taunting him with from the moment she heard his intentions for marriage. “Oh make no mistake, we’re still enemies for the time being. Grant me a favorable reply and I can be more than a little hospitable… But until then, I’m afraid so.” He was quickly catching on to the rules of this game she was playing, and just like when they were children, he wasn’t so easily persuaded. She would have to try a fair deal harder if she hoped to coax an invitation out of him.

Arielle seemed up for the challenge, however, as once more she approached, her stride as confident as ever. She looked like she was heading for the door, but he could swear she had eyes only for him. The closer she came the less sure he was over which was her true destination. His breath caught when she finally reached him, ever so carefully making contact and keeping his gaze trapped within that alluring stare. Oh she was very good at her game… They both knew this was all political but Arielle clearly knew how to make him want more than that. He had no choice but to fall victim to her carefully laid trap, his body shifting just the way she wanted. Suddenly it felt like she was the one issuing invitations, stirring his body with the desire to follow in her wake however bad of an idea he knew it to be. It was a precarious thing, seeing the way she tantalize a man.

Hadrian was equally relieved and disappointed as she peeled herself away, the promise of her soft and warm body gone as quickly as it had come. His senses returned once the contact was broken, but she’d certainly managed to fluster him with her little stunts. He scarcely knew what the say by the time she made it to the door, but her parting comments drew a genuine smile to his lips. Oh he didn’t have to worry about finding her. Eyes would be upon her at every moment; the very same that had betrayed her presence to him in the first place. He’d only just managed to capture his prize, he wasn’t about to let her wander free. Of course, this he all kept to himself, an ace in his pocket as he met her appraisal with a look every bit as devilish as his own. “I’ll be looking forward to it,” he promised before she took her leave.

Once he was alone again, Hadrian strode back to his throne, running their encounter again through his mind. The solitude did not last long, however, as the worrisome lords shuffled into the chamber soon after. A barrage of questions and concerns were brought up over witnessing the girl’s departure, every man eager to hear why it was still with her head attached. After ordering them to silence, he explained their answer would be given two days hence. This satisfied them about as much as Arielle’s fate, but after seeing further badgering incurred nothing but their sovereign ire, they were forced to accept it; albeit it with much grumbling before taking their leave. Once again, finally alone, Hadrian sighed and relaxed back into his chair; as much as one could in the gnarled, uncomfortable throne. He rubbed his temples as he considered all the work left to do, and how busy tomorrow would be right from dawn. But at least the die had been cast in his first, true gamble as king. All he had to do now was wait and see how his potential bride would respond.
 
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alexandra1405

Mischief from Down Under
Joined
Dec 7, 2018
Arielle didn’t like the fact that she had been so easily found by Hadrian’s men, not entirely confident that he didn’t have eyes within her circle at some level or to some degree. In a time where the kingdom was torn in two and warring, it should have been assumed that there would be some that walked the fine line between both; not confident to commit one way or the other in case one finally fell. Several faces came to mind as Arielle wandered, seemingly mindlessly, through the quiet cobblestone streets. But, like everything, her slow and random stroll very much had a purpose and it wasn’t purely to allow her time for thought and to consider where her loyalty truly lay. Who had it been? Who was the one that had been coward enough to choose neither, afraid to side with the one that fell? Who was self-preserving? Well, Arielle thought to herself as she flicked the fur lined hood of her cloak up over copper hair, anyone would become self-preserving if they feel threatened enough. Not everyone is selfless and willing to sacrifice. It’s the nature of the beast, after all, I suppose. Mankind is selfish to the core.

Even her father, to some extent had been selfish despite all the propaganda he spread on the streets. What had he hoped to gain from his threats to up-heave the King? Had his deep-rooted desire been to rule the kingdom himself if he won it? She supposed that no one would ever know, not even herself, of her father’s true intentions and hopes, though she’d like to consider them based on the good of the people. Were her reasons selfless or selfish? She felt as though she needed to continue the legacy of her father, to continue his fight for the justice of his people. Arielle had felt from the moment she’d received word of her father’s death that now it was on her to continue, and it would be her who would let the people down if she simply stepped aside. Was she doing this for the good of the people, or was she fighting for fairness and equality because she felt that was her duty?

So many questions swirled within her mind as she walked slowly, steps a little careless over some loose stones. Not a single one of these questions had been raised before, at least not until her surprise meeting with the King. Copper brows drew together in a slight frown of thought as she pulled the cloak tighter around her slender frame. Hadrian had unnerved her, more than she’d like to admit, and it didn’t sit well with her at all. Little phased her these days, but this had shaken her. As bold and as mischievous as she had been in the throne room, Arielle had been a ball of nerves, cleverly hidden behind a mask of rebellion. Truth be told, Arielle was terrified, but not, perhaps, in the way that anyone would think. For so long, she’d known where she stood and what role she had to play. For years after her father’s death she’d played the game meticulously. It was all she knew. But what would it mean for her if she accepted? Did Hadrian expect her to play house? Did her expect her to transform into a doting, meek wife who’d happily raise children for a King she had a blood feud with? Would she have a role at all in the new world Hadrian seemed to have a plan to create?

Deep in her thoughts, Arielle had wandered astray and down alleyways she hadn’t intended to take. It was no matter, she realised, her plan to lose any tails or eyes that followed her was unlikely to succeed at this hour of the night. There was no one on the street, and scarcely a soul awake at such an hour that wasn’t drinking themselves into a drunken stupor, or in the throes of paid-for, cheap sex. A brothel glowed with the amber light of candles in the windows; seemingly inviting and warm. There was even a soft, musical laugh drifting on the icy breeze from a window far above. Arielle wondered whether Hadrian ever had to lower himself to such standards, or whether his bed was always warm and filled with ladies seeking his attentions. That, she realised, would certainly be a negotiation she’d refuse to budge on. Well, she thought smugly, a rule, rather than a compromise.

After a little while, made longer by her continual detours in attempt to confuse her tails, Arielle came to the red oak door of a small, thatch roofed building that was cast completely in shadow. It was dwarfed by much larger constructions either side, appearing squat in the middle by comparison. Knuckles rapped against the wood twice. Several moments later, after Arielle began to lazily blow breath before her face and watching it formed mist immediately, the door creaked as it opened. Morteus in all of his silver-headed and sleepwear clad glory, stood in the doorway with a blade in hand at the ready.

Holding up empty hands, she spoke sternly; “It’s just me.” Arielle’s movements were slow as she clasped the edge of the hood, withdrawing it to reveal her face that was soon bathed in the soft light from inside. “I need a bed for the night. A comfortable one, preferably. I’m done sleeping in that barn. I’m surprised I’m not already frozen. Besides, the cows grew bored of my presence long ago,” her laugh was a little bitter as she leaned to the side and glanced beyond the man’s bulk at the home behind him. “Are you going to make me wait on the doorstep, or invite me inside? What’s with everyone’s hospitality today? All so charming.”

Morteus frowned deeply, the soft wrinkles upon his skin deepening. “We thought you had been executed, or were soon to be.”

Arielle stepped forward, her tone flippant. “And you didn’t bother to come aid me? What kind of gentleman are you?” Again, she gestured to the warm space beyond, her toes beginning to grow numb from the chill. Copper brow rose in question, “May I come inside, please?”

After a little while, as if it required some deep thought, Morteus moved aside and the doorway was opened to her. She didn’t need another invitation, Arielle was inside the house in a moment and making her way straight to the hearth; the home’s heart of warmth. There were many reasons for her coming here, and ironically most were selfish. Arielle knew that Morteus would be the least likely to ask questions of her and would simply accept her presence. He also had no family that she would intrude on, and she’d certainly get a good’s night sleep if her brain finally switched off. Arielle had lied about the bed though, she realised as she settled down in front of the fire on her side, curled up like a cat. She might have been sick of the barn and the horses that would nudge her awake every hour because they were curious, but she was more than happy to sleep on the floor before the fire. Already, she could feel herself drifting off.

Morteus might have asked her how she’d managed to keep her head, let alone leave the castle. He also might have asked why she had a wild look in her eye. But it all, unsurprisingly, fell on deaf ears as sleep quickly claimed the rebel by the flames. She was out like a light for the first time in weeks.


~~~

Whatever peaceful evening Hadrian had envisioned certainly did not take place. She found him, just as she’d promised, and was rather proud of this considering the effort she’d gone to. The fact alone that she’d been able to keep to the shadows long enough to remain undetected until she was right under their noses was astounding. Arielle was no assassin, and certainly didn’t have the tricks of their trade and skill at keeping hidden from all eyes, and the realisation that she’d made it so deep inside the castle without them knowing had her frowning. Did Hadrian expect her to trust these men to protect her from harm when they hadn’t even noticed she’d snuck in? If they couldn’t spot her, how were they supposed to spot an assassin, or even a light footed thief? Or had Hadrian warned them of her impending arrival and they were simply ignoring her as instructed?

The further she ventured into the castle, the more she grew angry at their lack of acknowledgement. It came to a head when she turned a corner, her freckled cheeks flushed a soft shade of pink in her anger as she almost collided with a guard; his chest emblazoned with the Royal Crest, declaring his loyalty. Mundane brown eyes gazed down into the ocean blue and forest green, before calloused hands made a move to snatch her. Arielle had made it this far, and she certainly wasn’t going to give up now.

Quite skilfully, she stepped sideways, ducking beneath the outstretched arms and taking in a breath as she felt them fly by overhead, almost grazing her. Copper hair fluttered in the breeze created by the movement, wisps falling about her face as she took off in a sprint down another wide corridor. This place, fortunately enough, was just the same as it had been when she’d left. No corridor seemed new and no door that she passed seemed altered, at least on this floor; the very same one she would frequent in order to play tricks on the young Hadrian. The memory of her childhood was a map and, if it served her correctly, would lead the way right to where she wanted. The clambering guard had taken off after her, finally drawing the attention of several others that joined the pursuit of the flame-haired woman dressed in a black cloak. They shouted at her, cursed and swore, but Arielle couldn’t have cared less about what was said; determined.

Sure enough, on the next sharp corner that sent her almost skidding sideways against the wall, she saw it. She could feel it. This corridor was several degrees warmer and smelling of fresh bread with a slight copper sent that came with the juice of a steak. This space seemed a lot more.....cared for than all the other hallways she’d traipsed through. Hadrian was close, she was sure, and she grinned wickedly at the thought of his shock when he’d see her. Several paces more, with increasingly angrier shouts at her back, and Arielle was at the dining room doors; shoving both open and letting them bang unceremoniously against the walls with enough force to shake them. Cloak was billowing behind her, caught in the breeze caused by her run, the fur lined hood about her shoulders having fallen. Copper hair was wild and untamed, just the same as the glisten to her eye.

“Hadrian, dear,” Arielle purred, still uncaring about the guards that marched furiously into the doorway as she stalked further into the room. “I’ve decided and I think you will be most entertained by my answer. I must say though....” just as she had done in the throne room the evening prior, Arielle sauntered towards him, eyes watching his face with a shimmer of mischief as she made her way out of view and to his back. Milky hands, their backs flecked with bronze freckles much like her cheeks, squeezed at the muscles of his shoulders before smoothing down over his chest; her touch courageous considering. As she continued, her voice was a seductive murmur, breath warm against the shell of his ear as she leaned in close. “I do hope that your guards will pay a little more attention to what lurks in the shadows once there is a lady in this home.”
 
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Fates.Gamble

Revendeur de Destin
Joined
Oct 11, 2012
Location
Somewhere out there...
Unlike Arielle, sleep did not come easily to Hadrian. The better part of his night was spent tossing around on his fine linen sheets, trying and failing to get comfortable no matter how he shifted. Of course, the true culprit for the insomnia was his mind. It was full to the brim and over running with every concern he could think of. This was nothing new to him though; a good night’s rest had been bitterly difficult to achieve these last few weeks. It seemed in exchange for the mantle of ruler, he would be sacrificing a great many nights of sweet repose. Tonight would be no different it seemed, as he rolled onto his back and stared up at the inky shape of the ornamented canopy above him.

Well I suppose if a king can get to sleep soundly he’s not doing a proper job, Hadrian told himself, bright eyes continuing to roam across embroidered hangings. Tonight though, it wasn’t the needs and wants of his people he lingered on, so much as the woman he’d encountered tonight. The woman I might just end up spending the rest of my life with… It was a strange thought, made all the more perplexing the longer he considered Arielle. The fact that he could no adequately read her intentions or thoughts on the matter frustrated him to no end. It left him obsessing over her answer, imagining what it might be and considering how he might respond to either option. Honestly, he still wasn’t sure. Not often did he draw blanks, yet Arielle remained an engima to him. What with her flaming red hair, and magnetic eyes of blue and green, as vast as the ocean and just as secretive about what might lurk in the depths. Even the image of her was surprisingly difficult to get out of his head.

Even though he’d made this decision for purely altruistic reasons, he found his thoughts turning just a little towards the selfish. He couldn’t help but ponder over what his life might be like if she said yes. She was as beautiful as one could hope for; certainly no qualms there. But she was certainly stronger of will than he expected,and seemed no less mischievous than he remembered. And a damn good actor as well, he deduced, as he continued to battle over whether or not her demeanor was simply playful banter, or a tried and tested method of getting into a man’s head. Considering he was still fidgeting around over it several hours past, he was leaning towards the latter. Grumbling, he rolled back to his side in a huff and forced his eyes shut. There was no sense wasting the night away over it. For better or worse he would receive his answer tomorrow. It took a while, but eventually he drifted away from the thoughts of the brazen woman and her flaming red hair, and slipped into the veil of slumber.

~

The restless night did not serve Hadrian well come the next morning. It felt like he’d only just fallen asleep before the light of dawn came calling, beating down through the large windows of the solar and cutting right through the gossamer canopy that sheltered him. For a long while, Hadrian considered just staying in bed, willing away the nagging light of day and all the lords and ladies and everyone else came stabbing at him with their grievances. A king should be allowed to sleep in as long as he likes, he decided, and wondered over whether he should make that some sort of decree as he buried his face into the pillows and ignored the rest of the world around him. No doubt he could, but not without consequence. After the way his predecessor managed to run their country into the ground, every minute not spent solving a problem was time for more problems to pile up.

After a time, he reluctantly pulled himself out of bed and into suitable attire. As he went about his morning, he found himself once again thinking of Arielle and somewhat envying her position. In a way, her life sounded much more fanciful than his. To think she was on the ground, leading her own group of men and operating from deep within enemy territory. It was both terribly dangerous and far more adventurous than his daily life sitting on a throne and calling shots. Inwardly, he wondered whether she’d really want to trade that in for such a change of pace. War was devastating, no doubt, but everything he’d seen so far suggested she might just be too wild and free of a spirit to chain herself down to a husband and throne. He didn’t have much time to linger on this chain of thought, though, as the life of a monarch was every bit as busy as it was repetitive.

After a quick breakfast, Hadrian attended to his courtiers, taking up residence in the council chambers where began a lengthy discussion over several affairs. Most of the policy that came up was easy enough to handle, no matter how tedious their split dispositions made the process. But the war was always the elephant in the room, and this was exceedingly difficult to make decisions on when the entire balance of the conflict weighed upon a secret proposal that only two of them knew about. The indecision and hesitation led to much flustering from an official or two, but there was little more to be done about it once Hadrian ordered the discussion be moved towards estate management. Then came the tiring drawl of the stewards and their listing of accounts and expenditures. Their accounts were not looking great; hardly surprising after a civil war bleeding the land dry. That inevitably led them to a debate all its own.

“We should consider levying more taxes,” suggested his treasurer.

“No,” Hadrian responded at once, “We’re taking more than I care to already.”

“I understand your want for lenience,” the lord went on, carefully choosing his words, “We can’t help the common people if our coffers are empty. This is war, and wars are dreadfully expensive.”

“We’re not helping the common people if we’re robbing them of their livelihoods,” Hadrian countered. “They’ll welcome our enemy’s sword into their bellies if it fills them with anything besides hunger. Or worse yet, sympathize with their cause. I will not willfully starve my people.”

And that was all well and good, but it didn’t solve their financial problems in the least. By the end of the meeting they still hadn’t arrived at a sound conclusion. The debates left Hadrian feeling somewhat bitter by the end, especially considering the overall lack of progress. But he reminded himself these discussions were all hypothetical until he received Arielle’s answer. It was difficult to manage a country when you weren’t entirely certain how much of it would be your responsibility come the morrow. “What of the other matter I have you looking into?” Hadrian asked of the men before they were dismissed.

A nervous sort of anticipation bubbled throughout the council. They all seemed hesitant to speak, until at last, one of the men took it upon himself to answer. “We are investigating a few potential leads, but thus far, nothing has turned up.”

“So… A man was able to just waltz right into our castle, murder my father and his Shield, and simply vanish into a puff of smoke? These had better be some damn good leads you’re following. None of us rest easy until we learn who it was and why it happened.”

Once that was settled, Hadrian finally allowed them to adjourn. His mood had grown dour after the lengthy meeting coupled with his lack of sleep. More than that, his thoughts had grown heavy over the man who murdered the last king. More often than not, Hadrian and his father had failed to see eye to eye. Whatever their differences though, he was still kin and blood. There lingered a sense of grief for his loss, yet brighter than that burned his thirst for the truth of the matter, and for vengeance. He was painfully aware that the longer this assassin walked free, the greater chances of him coming by for another round of regicide. Part of him hoped they would be so foolish. Thus far his best spies had proven inept at flushing this killer out. What better way to find them than letting them come right to him? But he had his shadow if that ever happened; the lone soul who’d joined him outside of the chambers, and silently followed at a distance through the corridors.

With everything running through his mind, Hadrian had nearly forgotten about Arielle’s promise to find him at dusk. The sun had nearly sank into the horizon by the time it sprang to mind, and he was left to wonder whether she would abide by the deadline. He’d given her three days after all, and it was a rather big decision. He could hardly blame her if she needed more time than expected to arrive at a conclusion. For a time he wondered if he should set some scene for her; find a way to beat her at her own game and throw her for a loop for a change. This idea was quickly dismissed, though. With his luck, he’d stage some elaborate prank and spend his night waiting only for her never to show. Or, a fear that was even greater, Arielle was always better at games than him. Arielle seemed to thrive on playfulness while Hadrian was too busy letting his responsibilities bog him down. Perhaps that would make a nice balance for each other if she says yes, he thought, trying to be hopeful.

Either way, he wasn’t going to give her the satisfaction of just waiting around for her. A rumble of hunger led him towards the kitchens where he requested a grand meal to be prepared, on the off chance Arielle did stick to her word. He retired to the dining room after that. His steadfast guard made to wait outside the door, but Hadrian beckoned him to enter along with him instead. “Come, join me,” he offered, “I’d wager you can protect me just as well over dinner as you could standing around.”

“Thank you, your Grace, but I am not hungry.”

“Nonsense. Of course you are. I’m sure nothing works up an appetite like standing over my shoulder, listening to those windbags all day. Let us ignore proper etiquette for once. Come, sit. Consider it an order if you must. Just once I’d like to talk to someone who isn’t obsessed with political matters…”

So sit they did, though his Shield wasn’t much in the way of conversation. Hadrian had grown used to that, having known the man for many years now. He knew good and well that he spoke far better with his sword than he ever could his words. The day he’d first seen the warrior in action was likely to be a memory he’d never forget. He was no more than a teenager the night he’d snuck away from the castle and visited the fighting pits on the far side of the city. Caius the Quick they called the fighter he watched, yet quick was a poor definition for the way his blade sliced through the air, painting the arena in a spray of scarlet with every strike. The copious amounts of money he made over betting on the man also helped to make a good impression; leaving him plenty enough to enjoy even after turning over the bulk of it to calm his father’s ire after the king learned of his son filching from the treasury.

“I asked my father to name you Shield of the King once, you know,” Hadrian admitted, even as servants brought in their feast. A cornucopia of food was placed before them, from steak, pork, chicken, and even, venison paired with leeks and other vegetables and pungent with herbs and spices, to an assortment of cheese, freshly baked bread, and pies, and even an assortment of fresh fruit. “You were the best fighter I’d ever seen,” Hadrian continued to say, helping himself to a bit of venison as he reflected on the memory. “Of course, you can imagine how he responded to the idea of some low born barbarian serving as Shield of the King. Perhaps if he reconsidered he’d still be alive.”

“Ser Royce was an exemplary fighter,” Caius told him, setting down his goblet after a short draught of wine. “I saw him fight in a number of melees and he lacked no manner of finesse. The man who killed him must have been skilled indeed. I do not look forward to crossing blades with him, should the day come that he tries again.”

“See, that’s what I like most about you, Caius,” Hadrian said, smirking a little, “You’re modest, and you have no idea what a breath of fresh air that is. After spending your life dealing with a megalomaniac who just happens to be your father, a little modesty is nice. Even if it’s completely unwarranted. I pity any assassin unlucky enough to tangle with you, my friend.”

Of course, little did they know, someone was testing their defenses even as they spoke. Luckily for them, Arielle was more sneak than assassin, as her successor showed how poorly prepared they were to stop another attempt at regicide. Hadrian was left blissfully unaware of her arrival, even as she made utter fools of his royal guard. It wasn’t until they were just outide that the King and his Shield were made aware of the intruder, when the shout of frantic voices and the clatter of greaves sounded outside the door. The ruckus interrupted their conversation, causing both men to exchange a wary look before Caius sprang from his chair and reached for the hilt of his sword. The steel blade broke free of its scabbard, viciously bared towards the doors as they blew open.

Hadrian’s eyes fell on her at once, a little wide over her manner of intrusion. “Well you certainly know how to make an entrance,” he said, taking quick note of the contingent of guards rushing in behind her. The men were like a raging storm she seemed to care nothing about as she stalked towards him. Realizing who it was he’d risen a hand as a order for the men to stand down; particularly the one nearest him. His shield couldn’t have worn a more skeptical expression, but he stayed his weapon and stepped aside, allowing the woman to approach unimpeded while the last of her pursuers shuffled around. This was certainly not how he’d expected her to find him, and definitely not how he planned to receive her answer. The unexpected witnesses were all flustered and confused by the spectacle, and even Hadrian was a little thrown off guard at her touch; the perfectly tantalizing way her hands slid down his broad chest. That seductive whisper was her most tantalizing action yet, and he couldn’t stop the little grin from sweeping his face at the implications of it.

“Not to worry… My Shield here is all the protection one could hope for. Even so,” his grin faded as he cast his gaze across the room, overlooking the rabble that had failed to stop one, unarmed girl from making her way all the way to their sovereign, “I’m afraid I have to agree over this lot. No wonder someone was able to sneak in and kill your last king right under our noses!” His voice took on a much more commanding air as he rose from his seat, slipping from of Arielle’s embrace. “Bloody fools, all of you. Where is your captain?” A man stammered for a response, but when it became clear he didn’t know, Hadrian’s scolding continued. “Find him!” he demanded, “And tell him he is relieved of his position. The Shield of the King will be carrying out his duties until I can find a more permanent replacement. In fact, Caius why don’t you go tell him yourself.”

“Your Grace, I should stay by your side,” he countered, his stormy eyes and scarred face scowling at Arielle with a deep suspicion.

“No need to worry, she’s really quite harmless,” he assured his Shield, silently hoping it was true. After this stunt he still wasn’t entirely sure what to make of it. “And as for the rest of you, I suggest you start taking your jobs a bit more seriously. If another murderer does happen to slip by, you’d better hope he kills me. My death would be a far kinder fate than what’ll happen to the rest of you.”

That decided, the men took their leave, most of them taking a moment to shoot a dirty look at the woman who caused all the trouble. Once the doors closed in their wake and they were utterly alone, Hadrian turned his attention back on Arielle. “Still trying to get everyone in the castle to play tag with you, I see,” he said, a touch of both humor and annoyance coating his voice. “So… Am I going to have a lady in this house?” he quipped, smirking a little. “I’m guessing an acceptance doesn’t come without a few stipulations.” He extended a hand to the seat nearest him, inviting her to join him at the table. “Come, sit and eat if you wish. I did promise more hospitality upon a favorable reply, after all.” He took his own seat again after, relaxing back as he considered her intently.

“So let’s hear it, then,” he said once they were settled in, “What will it take to get my ‘Yes’?”
 

alexandra1405

Mischief from Down Under
Joined
Dec 7, 2018
There was no true word other than wicked to describe Arielle’s grin as she peaked around the maddened sovereign at the men she’d managed to dart past, her hands having fallen away from his broad chest as he rose to stand before them all. There was a firmer side to Hadrian, one that she couldn’t particularly remember him having, and quickly likened to the burning anger of a dragon. The mischief of her smile slowly dimmed as she grew curious, wondering whether there was a side to Hadrian that had grown in the troubled times. Though, she guessed that being King would always harden a man, no matter their true nature.

The pair of them were true opposites, in all senses. Where Arielle was something from the wild that could never be tamed, and would always be mischievous and carefree, Hadrian was something far more sensible. Raised by the tyrant, it came as a surprise to her often that he wasn’t maddened just as his father had been. Hadrian had always been responsible, sensible and mature, and it came as no surprise to her that he’d grown into his title. The darkness to his voice as he scolded the gathered men just within the doorway as if they wouldn’t dare venture further into the King’s den, had the entire room paused and still. While there was a gentleness to his features, she was sure that if she were able to see his face there would have been something far darker within those sea blue eyes. Arielle’s gut twisted, just a fraction, and not in an entirely unpleasant manner. There was a twinge of guilt that lasted only the briefest of moments, which quickly disappeared as Arielle reminded herself that a flaming redhead had managed to slip into the bowels of the citadel and scurried straight to the sovereign. They should be scolded like children. The tip of pink tongue ran the seam of her lips from corner to corner, humming softly, barely audible, at the roughness to his voice that made her toes curl in her boots. Her gaze was slow to peel from the man standing before her, towering in physique as he scolded them and seemed completely unaware of her keen attention to him. Though, when it finally did come away to look across at the gathered soldiers by the door, it sparkled with mischief as she wiggled her fingers in a cheeky wave good-bye as they were dismissed.

As the Shield lingered, gifting her a rather poisonous scowl and one she was proud to think she had earned, she smiled sweetly at him as if she hadn’t just caused a large ruckus. “I’ll keep him safe,” she promised sickly-sweet, “you can have my head on a spike at sunrise if so much as a hair is disturbed on your dear King, and I know how much you’d love that.” Gesturing down at herself with a sweep of her hand, she grinned and added as she took a step closer to Hadrian’s back; “Harmless.” Arielle did not gift the Shield the same wicked wave as he left as she’d done the others, instead placing the small palm of her hand to the center of Hadrian’s back in a touch that appeared too familiar to be true, as if saying; there’s not a thing you can do about this. She knew how to play the game. She knew that Hadrian had her right where he wanted, and she had him also. Arielle hadn’t missed how his eyes had lingered on her frame the day prior when she’d sauntered from the room after their rather close encounter.

When the door was sealed shut, taut shoulders immediately relaxed, as did the falsely sweet smile that pulled at her lips, though the hand at his back did not drop for another few, longer moments. The truth was, this decision had been weighing on her all day, despite how peaceful her sleep had been by the fire. Arielle had little appetite for most of the day, and even as she glanced around him, she wasn’t the least bit interested in the half eaten meals laid out on the table. She made a small, displeased face at the thought of finishing the Shield’s clearly disturbed meal, remaining at Hadrian’s back for a moment longer until she was able to work her features into an expression far more neutral. Rolling out a shoulder as she reached up to squeeze at the bunched muscle, the smile that pulled at her lips this time was soft and far more genuine.

Stepping out from behind the chair and moving to his side, Arille beamed up at him as lithe fingers began to work the cloak’s clasp at the hollow of her throat. “You know very well that I’ve always sought attention from you, Hadrian,” Arielle murmured, her voice silvery more so than defiant as the clasp finally came undone and she withdrew the cloak from about her frame. “What’s to say that would ever change?”

Heavy black material of the cloak fell from her shoulders as she swung it around to her front before tossing it over the chair Hadrian had motioned towards in invitation for her to sit. Sit, she would, but certainly not in the chair like a well-mannered lady would, and not before remaining standing for a little while longer to allow Hadrian’s eyes enough time to take in the now revealed features. Where she had worn mundane and earthy colours the day prior, Arielle now stood before Hadrian dressed in colour. Figure hugging trousers were the same midnight black of her cloak, high waisted and cinched just beneath her bust. Four buttons decorated the space over her stomach, but the way the dark cotton clung to the wide flare of her hips was not the most scandalous feature to boot. Rather, it was the split on the outside of each pant leg that allowed a sliver of milky flesh from ankle right up to hip to be on show. Only a small sliver, and one that was kept partly closed by the criss-crossing of loose stitching, but it was enough flesh to draw attention to the length of her legs. Contrasting sharply with the red of her hair, was a mustard shirt; belled sleeves and loose at the wrists, but tucked beneath the waist of her trousers. As if fighting for equal attention as the sliver at either side of her legs, was the absent piece of shirt that was particularly low cut and revealed quite an amount of ample cleavage. The three golden hoops that pierced the shell of her left ear had been swapped for obsidian studs, the dark stones catching the light and gleaming.

It seemed that Arielle had something against furniture and using them for their intended purpose; having declined the bed offered to her the night prior and preferring to fall asleep by the fire instead. Now, her smile genuine and warm, Arielle moved to the edge of the table before gripping it and lifting herself up onto its surface. It shifted a little beneath her weight as she wiggled to get comfortable, scooting close enough to Hadrian that her ankles brushed against his knees as he took his seat once again. Crossing long legs at the knee, the sliver of milky flesh exposed through the cleverly place slit in the trousers growing that little bit wider at her hip and thigh, Arielle turned her face to the side as she gazed down at his plate. “I think it would be safe to say that this deal hasn’t been far from my mind since we last met,” Arielle admitted softly as she plucked the sharpest knife from the tablet and pierced a potato from Hadrian’s plate. Blue and green eyes returned to his face, a shimmer there as she brought the potato to her lips and slowly bit into it, only taking half from the knife to chew. Slender throat bobbed with a swallow as Arielle lent the knife up against the rim of his plate, with the half-eaten potato still pierced on its blade. It very simply could have been because she wasn’t hungry, but it just as easily could have been a challenge for power; claiming what was on his plate as her own if it pleased her to. “I’ve been curious to know whether the weight of this deal haunted you during sleep, or during the day like it did me. I know better than to think that it doesn’t weigh on you, too, you’ve always been sensible enough to know when things matter; unlike me.”

Hand rose, sweeping back a curl of red hair that swung forward and fell into her face, taking it carefully behind an ear; one that was far less pierced and not glistening with obsidian stones. Arielle had been painfully playful the day before, teasing Hadrian to no end with her beloved game of cat and mouse, but there was no sign of this side to her as she sat before him, swinging her ankles just enough that they brushed against his knee and lower thigh, absentmindedly, as if she was seeking some kind of comfort or distraction of the turmoil in making such a enormous decision. Would she be selfless or would she be selfish? That was, after all, what it came down to in the end. Would Arielle barter away her freedom and future for the benefit of the kingdom and the people? Or would she decline only to keep her sense of self? It made her skin tingle and fair hair along her arms rise in goosebumps as her knuckles turned white with the grip on the edge of the table.

“You and I both know that I won’t be the meek and mild wife that your Counsel would wish for you, and you’d all be mistaken if you expect me to remain within walls and play house like a subservient woman.” While the words might have sound accusatory and bitter, her tone was far from it; instead honest and frank with an unexpected edge of gentle. There was no point, after all, biting the hand that would soon feed her. “The thing that I want the most for is to keep my freedom. I would like to be able to come and go as I please, and without a tail following me if I specifically don’t wish it. This castle may become my new residence, but it will not be my prison. You can do your best to tame me—and I certainly hope you have a great deal of patience if this is your ultimate goal—but you will not cage me, Hadrian. Just as it wouldn’t be fair of me to ask you to change who you innately are as a person, it would be cruel for you to do so of me.”

Shifting her weight again, Arielle moved sideways on the edge of the table, tucking her legs up underneath the table as she did so. The plate was roughly brushed aside, Arielle uncaring as to where it ended up and what happened to the precariously balancing knife. Now directly before him, her ankles pressed against his knees until they edged apart and allowed her legs to rest between his lower thighs. There was no sinister intention for being so close, Arielle simply wanting Hadrian to look at her in order for her to be able to read his features. There was no point bargaining her future away if she couldn’t read the face of the game mater; who knew what he’d be thinking otherwise. Leaning forward just a fraction more, her hands still gripping the wooden edge of the table either sides of her thighs with their knuckles white with strain, Arielle’s gaze flickered between those oceanic eyes before she sighed through parted lips and straightened once again.

“You’re rather difficult to read sometimes, Hadrian, a skill you’ve always been particularly talented in,” she murmured, running the toes of her boots along his calves, simply for movement. “I’m not entirely sure how you picture this working out, or how you wish the people to portray us, but I think that you and I could both agree that if this is to work at all that there needs to be some image of being a united front. I doubt that we will see eye to eye on very many things, but if this is to work we cannot be squabbling in front of company. We can debate all we like, but we certainly cannot be undermining one another in the presence of others, if we want this stunt to be believable and to work. I will respect you as much as you respect me; no more and no less, so keep that in mind.”

Arielle was clearly, and rather quickly, growing comfortable in Hadrian’s presence and in the depths of enemy lines, as she toed her feet out of the leather boots and let them drop noisily to the floor beneath her. Turning at her hips to reach for the goblet behind her, she clasped its stem and brought the rim to her lips for a slow sip. Eyes shimmered as she kept her gaze leveled with his, even as she lowered it and slowly drew pink tongue over the seam of her lips. With a teasing smile, Arielle offered Hadrian his own goblet. Just as she did so, she hooked her feet behind his knees and pulled, as if she’d be able to drag him that little bit closer. “Your life will still be your own,” she murmured between them, “we will be married by name and goal, but that is all. You will see very little as me as you wish. You may continue with your harlots and women of the night if you so wish to, all I ask is that you’re discreet.” Arielle hooked a finger beneath Hadrian’s chin, tilting his face upward to gaze into her own features as her eyes dropped to his lips. Thumb was slow and careful to move, as if she didn’t want to startle him as the soft pad of the digit pressed against the corner of his mouth before drawing over his bottom lip as the touch linger. “I’d certainly be mad if the people lost all respect for me for not being able to keep my husband’s attention.”

As if scolded by steam, her hand withdrew fairly quickly from Hadrian’s lips and dropped to her lap to clasp at the muscle of her thigh and squeeze to keep it from wandering anywhere else it may not be welcome. Sniffing just once, and her nose twitching with the sharp intake of breath, Arielle set the goblet down beside her hip and bit the inside of her cheek. Was she demanding too much? I very well can’t enter into a deal without negotiating some terms, she thought to herself quite bitterly when she began to question herself. I would appear far weaker and too keen if I simply lay down belly up and accepted whatever he wanted. This game was just as dangerous as the war that raged out on the front, only this was wielded with slyness and toxic smiles. It was a game that Arielle refused to consider losing, whatever it meant.

“We will need to find some time to discuss finances,” she noted abruptly, the sudden change of topic turning her voice cold and a little distant. Arielle had a great deal to metaphorically bring to the table; more than just the allegiance of the rebels that fought against the crown. Arielle wasn’t forced to play by the rules. Defined as a criminal for being a traitor and conspirator against the King, she wasn’t limited in her choice of allies. Several unsavoury characters were under her thumb, and had been for years after she’d worked hard to gain their trust and loyalty. Their services were at her disposal at a moment’s notice, as was the coin that their occupation earned. Many could argue that the money to Arielle’s name was far from clean, but rather dirty, blood money that shouldn’t be invested back into the economy. A great deal of it had been left after the passing of her father, yes, but she’d worked hard to earn and acquire the rest. For a moment, Arielle wondered whether Hadrian realised what it was he had proposed to marry; a rebel, a thief, and a trouble-maker. She wondered whether he’d have any respect for her at all if he learned of her true nature and dealings over the past several years when they’d both picked up their fathers’ arms. Though, Arielle was curious to know just how quickly Hadrian would overlook such a thing considering the substantial debt the kingdom would have acquired during the years of civil war. A random and anonymous donation certainly couldn’t be traced or labelled as blood money. “But I think that would be best left for another night, where there is much more wine at the ready,” her smile was small for a moment, before it broadened and grew warmer once again.

Reaching out with milky fingertips, Arielle brushed a black lock of hair from his face before letting her hand fall to rest upon broad shoulder. “Believe it or not, dear Hadrian, I have every intention to make this work, despite what you may think of me, and I would appreciate it greatly if you gave me the benefit of the doubt until I am able to prove it to you.” She squeezed at his shoulder, fingers kneading at the muscle before falling sideways to upper arm to squeeze there also. Her hand continued its decent down to his wrist, running the pad of her thumb over the inside above pulse point. “I’m curious to know what picture it is you wish to paint for the people…..should you agree to my terms and we settle the deal. Shall we be the doting, happy couple? Or shall we be the stern couple that is all power and no play?” Arielle, quite skillfully, pouts for a moment as she says; “I do hope we get to play at least a little.”

The mischief that had returned to her tone after sour mention of finances quickly disappeared, her features softening into something far more somber as she rose to stand from the table’s edge between Hadrian’s knees. Moving closer, parting his legs, she pressed a knee between his hip and the chair, shifting her weight to the bent leg before she did the same with the other, coming to kneel above his lap and tower above him. Like this, Hadrian was forced to lean back against the seat and crane his neck to gaze up at her face, before she slowly began to sink backwards and settle down on his knees; her legs tucked up either side of his and knees pressed against his sides. “You know,” Arielle whispered, gaze flickering between his eyes as if she were able to read different stories in each, “I always thought that the next time I would see you would be either when I’m knelt before the executioner, or when I’m standing over you in death. You were always so close to my heels that I’m honestly surprised that it took you this long to finally catch me.” The corner of her mouth rose in a warm smile, as she whispered next; “Is the prize having company that won’t tiptoe around your feelings, or is it the looming end of the rebellion? I can’t quite work out which is more alluring to you.”

A light blush had settled over Arielle’s bronze flecked cheeks from just the mouthful of wine; liquor able to paint her shades of rose pink even with a small amount. This close to Hadrian now, he’d be gifted the view of the silvery scars that glistened across her skin; shallow wisps over her collarbones and one at the side of her throat, each a whisper of a past battle or fight. All of her seemed to be painted in the caramel freckles, though as they disappeared beneath the low cut V of her blouse, they became softer in colour. She stared at Hadrian, those vivid eyes swirling like a storm brewing, her gaze now level with his as she sat atop his knees. It felt like eons, but Arielle finally swallowed and leaned backwards, draping herself over the table as she reached up with an arm and clasped the goblet she’d set aside. “This is some good wine,” she muttered as she sat up once more, taking a quick swig. Either the wine or Hadrian was getting to her head, but Arielle wasn’t particularly fussed about which.
 
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Fates.Gamble

Revendeur de Destin
Joined
Oct 11, 2012
Location
Somewhere out there...
Hadrian couldn’t help but smirk, amusement sparking within his seafoam eyes while he observed Arielle. It was like every little action was a carefully laid out plan, a thread lined with bait to test how he would react. She was indeed willfully stubborn, if the way she refused the chair and instead perched herself upon the sturdy, oakwood table was anything to go by. She’d gotten his recognition alright; it was almost impossible to look anywhere else with her seated like this, especially after she removed her fur-lined cloak and revealed her choice of attire; an ensemble almost certainly chosen with the idea of luring in that attention she so craved. A retort was on the tip of his tongue, but somehow it vanished; replaced instead by a dry swallow as she shuffled near enough to brush against his knee. He’d agree things hadn’t changed, but that wasn’t entirely true. She was all grown up now, and apparently more than happy to let him know it. The games she wanted to play seemed to evolve right along with her, and he had to admit they were much harder not to be drawn into.

Hadrian remained quiet for now, staying true to his reserved nature even as he watched Arielle skewer the potato from his own course, despite the plethora of food before her. He’d almost forgotten just how pesky the girl could be, but she looked keen to remind him of it in the way she returned the half eaten tuber to the his plate. Oh she certainly knew how to work a nerve or two. Based on her admissions,though, he was glad to hear that, if nothing else, she was at least taking his offer seriously. He chuckled at her query though, his attention sweeping away from the thrown-away potato and back to her enrapturing eyes.

“Dying to know if the thought of you keeps me up at night?” He taunted her. He had no intentions of letting her know that had actually been the case… Even now, here in her electric presence, he was still fighting off the lethargy over it. But Arielle was right of course; she knew him far too well to believe this was no weight upon his shoulders. “The truth is it’s been days and nights,” he finally admitted, “Ever since the idea first popped into my head.” That had to be no surprise to her. It may have been 20 some odd years since they’d last interacted on friendly terms, but Arielle was known for making quite the impression. Rambunctious and free spirited as she was, and king was likely to hesitate over the idea of taking her hand and setting her in a seat of true power; let alone the king she’d been out to tease since they were children.


Another cloud of silence lingered as Arielle sat there, a bit of her feistiness draining away while she appeared to mull over the situation even now. At least, Hadrian thought that’s what she was doing. It was awfully hard to tell for sure, what with the way she casually swung her foot back and forth, coaxing him with her touch. It was difficult to determine whether the contact was innocent or far more intentional. Her company was so unlike everyone else he was accustomed to. Things had been far more professional; his guests far more compliant, in the days since Hadrian ascended to the throne. Most were afraid to upset or offend their King, but Arielle seemed nothing of the sort. The lack of intimidation was a breath of fresh air. It was also something of a frustration. Loathe as he was to admit it, he’d gotten somewhat used to people behaving in his presence. As if aware of the fact, his guest quickly made her concerns known.

Hadrian sat back, reclining slightly, and listened to her terms. He could hardly blame her for the first item she chose to address. It was understandable she might think of this place as a prison. Whatever repertoire they had as kids, they’d been enemies for far more years. There may have been just the slightest touch of concern as she demanded the freedom to come and go as she pleased. He wasn’t out to keep her in a cage, but the skepticism was slow to dissipate after they’d spent so long fighting each other. What was to say she wouldn’t be playing both sides of the field? Perhaps she would learn everything she could about his strategies and defenses, only to pass that information on to her rebellious cohorts? Regardless, she was very skilled at distracting him from such thoughts. The way she shuffled about on the table, carefully planting herself in front of him, made it hard to think at all. Hadrian allowed his eyes to wander from her face, appreciatively taking in the rest of her lovely form as she settled in closer than ever.

It was a short venture, though, as his eyes swept back up, past her ample cleavage so readily on display while she leaned towards him. A smile was teased from her lips as she admitted he was a bit hard to read. Hadrian might have said the same about her, but he didn’t. He preferred Arielle to think he had her all figured out; that her every move didn’t cause a mix of uncertainty and excitement to ripple throughout him. It was fortunate that he was so good at keeping his emotions in check… Who knew how she might turn the tables on him if she realized what a profound effect she could possibly have on him. “Consider it my own little game for you to play,” he suggested of his stoic nature, his smirk returning, even if he was practically squirming inside over her heavily flirtatious conduct. Hadrian may have been good at keeping his intentions tucked away, but Arielle was superb at clouding a man’s head without even trying. He found himself nodding along with her words, trying to stay focused on the topic of conversation rather than the dangerous proximity she kept.

“I agree,” he told her of their united image. Though, he could have said a thing or two on the matter of respect once that speech came. He was far more concerned over her actions on this front. After all, he wasn’t the one storming around castles, causing chaos and entirely uncertain over the proper uses of a chair. Arielle was growing more brazen and comfortable by the minute, even though nothing had been officially decided. What would she be like once she truly called this place home? Perhaps she already had…

“You seem to be settling into the idea rather nicely,” he remarked, his attention briefly pulled by the clatter of her boots hitting the floor. More than, in fact. Hadrian considered her as she watched him from over the rim of her goblet, her eyes sparkling with more mischief than ever. What he wouldn’t give to hear what she might be thinking. Her body language had a fair amount to say, but Arielle had misled him more than once in the past. By now he couldn’t help but be suspicious. That was for good reason, it seemed, as she extended a goblet to him, another method of bait as she quite literally hooked him. The abrupt act had no doubt gotten the reaction she hoped for. Hadian’s normally placid face lit up with surprise at the sudden jostling. She hadn’t quite managed to pull him any closer but the action left him jostled, nearly causing him to spill the wine he’d just accepted.

After composing himself, Hadrian flashed her something of a dark look, but the hesitant expression slowly melted away as Arielle continued to layout the details of their impending marriage. The mention of whores and harlots brought brought him to a light bout of laughter, and his expression grew just a bit more wicked as Arielle reached out, tracing her fingers across his lower lip. Arielle seemed to have a terribly hard time keeping her hands to herself; something she seemed to realize as her touch was quite suddenly withdrawn. “Oh good,” Hadrian said mockingly, his voice dripping with evident sarcasm, “My harem will be pleased to hear that. What’s a king without his concubines?” Taunting grin aside, Hadrian was actually surprised she was so lenient in the regard. She’d spent so much time yearning for his attention he didn’t think she’d ever be willing to share it once it was hers by law. Though, if the way she was acting was anything to consider, perhaps she had no intentions of letting it wander. Truthfully, it had been some time since he’d even been with a woman. Hadrian was always one to take his duties seriously, and that often left him too busy for any sort of leisure time.

“I don’t think you’ll have to worry too much about that,” he said, his eyes flashing with a bit of her own, tell-tale mischief. “If you want my attention as much as you did when we were kids, and if you’re even half as playful, I somehow doubt I’ll have much time for harlots.”

While Arielle sat pondering over her terms, Hadrian paused to take a deep drink of his wine, savoring the flavor for a long moment before lowering the goblet. He stared down into the red hue of the drink, contemplating everything she’d asked and offered. Her demands of free reign still weighed heavily on him, but he knew Arielle enough to know she was unlikely to budge on it. It was one of the many aspects that kept him from a good night’s sleep. “As for the rest of it…” he started, to say, keeping her gaze, “I think if anyone were capable of caging or controlling you, then you wouldn’t be sitting here on my table after bursting in on my dinner with a battalion of guards on your heels. This is all going to have to go both ways, you realize; especially that bit about discretion. There’s nothing wrong with a girl who likes to have a bit of fun, but disrupting my guard and making an over all nuisance of yourself is something all together different. I respect your wily and carefree nature; perhaps even admire it a little, but if you accept this position, then you must realize as a Queen you will have no few number of responsibilities. You want the freedom to come and go as you please? This is acceptable within reason. I do not intend to make this castle your prison, but a Queen is a slave to her people. Attend to them properly, and I care not what you choose to do in your free time.”

Once again, Hadrian paused for a drink, this time downing the remainder of the wine in a single stroke. He leaned forward then, brushing past Arielle as he set the drained goblet down beside her on the table. He relaxed back, afterwards, reveling in the warmth of the wine creeping down to fill his belly. “I imagine that will be a particularly long conversation,” he admitted once she brought up finances. He was thankful they wouldn’t be getting into it tonight, though. He’d spent most of the day discussing politics. He was more than ready for the debate to be laid to rest for now; more than ready to be done with business and relax. Silently he wondered if he’d ever be able to relax again with Arielle around the place. She was certain to keep him on his toes as much as his crown did.

Once again, Arielle struggled to keep her hands at bay. Hadrian sat perfectly still as she reached out once more, this time brushing a lock of hair away from his face. He almost felt guilty over his suspicions when she confessed she wanted this to work. Perhaps in that regard he was more like his father than he thought. The last king often saw enemies everywhere, and such paranoia was a great step towards the dictator he did not wish to become. Perhaps it wouldn’t hurt to let my guard down for once, he thought to himself. It wouldn’t be so bad to give her the benefit of the doubt. He may have been giving Arielle a great deal of her power, but his men would still give their true sovereign their loyalty. In the end, he had her outnumbered. He only hoped that would be enough; if the goosebumps left in the wake of her hands sliding down his arm, and brushing across the bare skin of his wrist were any indication, she had more power over him than he would have liked.

“All power and no play is all our subjects have ever known,” he said, trying to keep his emotions in check as Arielle continued to run her thumb across his sensitive flesh. “I think they deserve to see a bit of fun, don’t you? I want to promote the idea of unity and peace to our people. And so I believe that is the role we must play… No matter whatever turmoil we find ourselves facing behind closed doors. It is as you said; we must show we are one to the people, even if we disagree on everything else from here on out. What we do, we do for them; not ourselves.”

Despite that, Arielle seemed a little more than interested in doing a couple of things for herself too. Hadrian was hesitant at first, the benefit of the doubt proving somewhat difficult as she pried his legs apart and pulled herself into his lap. He’d be lying if he said the new position didn’t excite him just a little. How many moons had it been since he’d known a woman’s warmth; the feel of his body intermingled with another? It was almost impossible not to think about as he leaned back, craning his neck up to watch Arielle’s face. It was a more than pleasant view, and it left him with bated breath even as his future queen lowered back down, setting herself firmly upon his knees. One might think they were already married if they chanced to walk in on them now; she was certainly acting like it. Hadrian felt his blood running hot, and he fought hard to appear like none of this was having any effect on him; that he was solely interested in her for the sake of an alliance. But he was losing that battle.

“I have to wonder if you didn’t want it that way,” he replied, finally feeling like he can breathe again. “You always did like getting me to chase you…” For once, it was Hadrian who found himself unable to keep his hands to himself. They rested innocently on her legs at first, but steadily grew curious, and began to run their way up, his warm fingers teasing across the exposed skin of her thighs as they traversed the criss-crossing fabric of her trousers. Eventually his hands came to settle on her hips. Hadrian had to fend off a shiver at how natural it all felt. He had to admit she looked a stunning prize on his lap, her colorful shirt a stark contrast against the dark, midnight blue doublet he wore. They would certainly make a handsome couple as king and queen… Honestly, he didn’t know why he should hold back at this point. Their marriage was basically a sure thing now. Why deny the chemistry if it was there? And yet he still had a hard time giving in. His mind was caught somewhere between wondering what it would be like to lay her out across the table and have his way with her, and shouting about all the sharp objects like knives and other utensils that would be perfectly within her reach.

The mask had apparently slipped enough to give Arielle some insight to his thoughts. He had to admit he wasn’t sure what the more alluring result would be at this point either. There was always something fun and dangerous about her; even when they were kids. She was endlessly creative when trying to rope him into something or another. That creativity was a big part of what compelled him to make this offer in the first place. He needed a mind like that if he was going to have a decent shot at fixing this country. Yet, now he couldn’t help but wonder at all the delightful ways that creativity might be used against him. Perhaps their would be some not so delightful ways too, but those were much harder to imagine at the moment, while she was leaned back, fetching her goblet and offering him yet another wondrous view of her toned body in the process. Hadrian’s gaze followed the pattern of freckles down her chest, marveling at the way they faded as he went, and wondering how far down he’d have to explore before they vanished all together.

“Better than the potatoes, at least,” he agreed with another grin, only to reach out and snatch the goblet from her hands. Enough of her mischievousness had rubbed off on him that he was more than willing to play her games this time. He watched her with something of a daring expression as he drank from her own cup, and shifted more comfortably into his seat beneath her. He held it off to the side after, one hand still firmly planted on her hip as he stared into those bright eyes of hers. “So… After a bit of compromise I think your terms are more than agreeable. We’ve a great deal more to discuss, but as you said, there isn’t nearly enough wine for that now… I do hope you’re not planning to cause too much trouble around here, though. A little mischief is all well and good but I’m already out a captain of the guard thanks to your antics. And a bit of the man’s own inadequacy I suppose…”

Another quick swig of her wine, and his eyes sparkled with a thought. “I’d start thinking of a replacement if I were you. I can’t have my Shield distracted every time my new queen decides to tease the guards, and who better to protect the lady of the house than someone of her own choosing? I trust you can find someone suitable.” Hadrian decided Arielle could go around causing all the messes she liked over her tenure here, but he would make certain she cleaned up after each and every one of them. The implications of the responsibility he gave her weren’t lost on him, either. It took a great deal of trust to allow his potential enemy to organize his own defenses. “This is me giving you the benefit of the doubt,” he told her, attention dropping from her face to one of the silvery scars across her collarbone. His own hands seemed to take on her curiosity, reaching out to brush a thumb across the blemish, only to wander down and play across the other speckled marks that riddled her complexion. “Don’t make me regret it. I’m not much for disappointment.”
 

alexandra1405

Mischief from Down Under
Joined
Dec 7, 2018
Arielle replied to Hadrian’s bright eyed amusement at the realisation that she was, in fact, pressing as to whether she had been able to worm her way inside his head the evening prior. Did she want to know whether the thought of her kept him up most of the night? Of course. What woman would not wish to know whether the King fancied the thought of her, or spent hours trying to decipher not only her intentions but also the entirety of her? The shine in her eyes was answer enough to most of Hadrian’s probing questions, most not requiring a verbal response and often met with a mischievous grin instead. Arielle quite enjoyed toying with him, and fancied the idea of making him pleasantly uneasy a great deal. She was a simple woman, after all, what you saw was more often than not what you ultimately got; but there would always be a test, a game, some kind of hurdle thrown into the mix that would make most second guess.

The dark look that Hadrian cast her upon hooking her feet around the backs of his knees in an attempt to drag the chair closer made her toes curl, an action that he would surely feel against his calves. Calm, collected, neutral Hadrian was all that she knew for some time when they were children, and since her sudden departure many years ago Hadrian had remained a faceless figure that she was determined to overthrow. Arielle would no longer think of the soft features of the young crown prince when she thought of Hadrian, but now the sharper, harsher angles that squared his jaw and sharpened cheekbones. All these years she had only seen him from afar, or his drawn face in some leaflet declaring a celebration or news of some sort. Neither did him justice, she realised as she’d come to settle down atop his knees comfortably.

“A king is nothing without a harem,” Arielle sharply retorted, though her smile was small yet warm enough that her eyes were no longer stormy. “With all the ladies lining up outside the gate to be gifted the pleasure of warming your bed , it’s no wonder your guards were distracted. Some of them were quite something, you know, if you enjoy having to first fight silk and tight lacing before finally getting down to the goods. You’d need at least two of your guards to help lift some of those skirts, hardly something that would set the mood.” Her weight shifted forward, hips rolling as she did so, their faces just inches apart as ocean blue and forest green eyes lazily lowered to gaze at Hadrian’s mouth, taking their sweet time. “At least there’s only two garments that you’d have to remove should you wish it, and it would hardly be an effort at all. These trousers are rather obedient unlike their owner.” With a wicked smile as she ran her tongue the seam of her lips before leaning backwards once more, she patted Hadrian’s shoulder rather casually. “Sorry, dear,” Arielle purred, “how disappointing it must be for you to know that I would likely be consuming all of your spare time.”

Sitting atop Hadrian’s lap the way she was, Arielle couldn’t help but feel like a scolded child when he next spoke of the responsibilities that she would carry with the title soon to be bestowed upon her. As if she didn’t realise the weight that would come with such a bargain and agreement. Copper brows drew together in a slight frown, features darkening just a fraction as he continued, though she didn’t dare interrupt. Instead, she waited until he seemed to be finished, when he next took a deep breath and chest expanded before she bitterly interjected. “I can be discreet when I wish it to be, Hadrian. I had every intention of making my way to you unnoticed, and I almost succeeded; which, perhaps, in itself is not a particularly good thing considering the not so pleasant history of the crown. I’d consider it doing you a favour, actually. The man lost his posting, yes, but why should an incompetant man hold such a standing if he were so lax with security? Thank goodness for you I had actually taken the deal into consideration. It would have been a rather bloody shame if I came here with the intention of doing something a little more murderous, and made it so far into your home.” The frown deepened, but only for a moment longer before her features relaxed into an expression far more neutral. The glimmer to her vividly coloured eyes was something a little darker now, but wicked nonetheless. “A queen may be a slave to her people, but her first and foremost duty is to please the king, don’t forget. Trust me, dear Hadrian, I will take my role very seriously.”

The truth of the matter was that the deal proposed by Hadrian had weighed heavily upon her, even if it had not disturbed her sleep. She had spent the day on the front lines, earning a new wound that would surely scar but lay hidden beneath her blouse. Arielle might have looked her best self, clothed so alluringly the way she was and smelling of spice and rose, but she had spent her day trudging through mud, ordering men about, and training with swords. Her muscles were sore and the heat rising from Hadrian’s legs was more than soothing. The deal was more than just an end to the war, its ultimate purpose was to re-unite the people and allow the lands to once again flourish. A rebel may have allowed spies sent from other territories to venture into their enemy’s lands with the hopes of weakening them further, but Arielle had been sure to remove the head of each one the kingdoms about them sent. If anyone was to usurp the throne, it would be her and her people alone. How ironic it was to think that soon she’d be presiding over the kingdom at her enemy’s side, vowed to him for the rest of eternity. How darn funny it was to think that she had gone from wanting to end the regal lineage, to now being part of its future. It made her a little bitter, she had to admit, to consider how easily she was swayed. But would ending the king really be any better for the people than if she had his ear to whisper into?

The heat of his hands was enough to shock Arielle out of this train of thought. Where Hadrian had remained mostly stoic during both of their encounters, despite her wicked games, Arielle was far less skilled at hiding how she felt. Goosebumps rose over her arms, her thighs pressed tightly either side of his in a clench as his hands ventured further upward before clasping at her hips. Hadrian might have withheld a shiver, but Arielle did not. It ran from the crown of her head to the base of her spine, a little shiver as she caught bottom lip between her teeth to suppress a soft sigh. It escaped anyway, and Arielle supposed that she should be thankful that the wine had already coloured her bronze flecked cheeks a gentle shade of rose pink. If they hadn’t been, Hadrian would surely have noticed the blush that bloomed on the milkiness of her skin. Goddamn Hadrian and his countermoves, Arielle grumbled inwardly, unable to help herself shuffle a little further up his thighs towards the heat of him. The room wasn’t particularly chilled, but just as she found herself drawn to the fire the night prior, she was drawn like a moth to a flame to the warmth radiating from him. At least I will have something to keep me warm wherever I venture….

The stealing of her wine, however, did not go down quite as well as his gentle handling of her. “Yes,” she frowned a little darkly as she watched with stormy eyes as Hadrian lifted the rim to his lips and drank slowly, “much better than the potatoes. ‘Tis a shame though ...” Arielle inched closer, the width of her hips midway up his thighs now as she climbed higher on his lap, “that you’d steal a lady’s wine without first allowing her a taste.” Her hand was quick to move, just as it had been when she’d snatched his throat the evening before, this time catching the width of his neck front on. The grip was not firm or authoritative, but rather aimed at keeping him still so not to move. Thumb brushed lazily beneath the crook of his jaw, as her eyes lowered to the mouth coloured slightly by wine. “What deplorable manners you have, Hadrian….” her voice was a purr as eyes slowly rose to meet his as she began to tilt forward towards him. Arielle was so close to his front, yet their bodies remained inches apart. Breath was shared, smelling of the sweet wine both had consumed, as Arielle’s heartbeat thundered victoriously within her chest. Her lips were barely there, a gentle brush against his as the cold tip of her nose pressed lightly against the warmth of his cheek. One could barely have considered it a kiss, for the touch was barely felt at all. What was felt was the warmth of her tongue as it swept out over his bottom lip; as if she were trying to taste the wine. The hand at his throat slowly swept over neck and down towards chest, the small width of her palm settling over the space of his heart. Arielle grinned, the blush on her cheeks deepening just a fraction, as she was slow to straighten. “You should know better than to steal a lady’s wine, especially mine. I know how much you hate to entertain the thought of me, so consider that punishment.” Arielle’s hand remained pressed firmly against his chest, her fingers splayed as she silently began to count the race of his heart in order to calm hers.

“Whether your Shield is the captain of the guards or not, he will always be distracted,” she mused, her voice a gentle murmur as she eyed Hadrian’s features. Had she thrown him off guard like she had herself? Hadrian was doing an awfully good job at remaining so stoic despite having the weight of her plush thighs pressing into his lap. “I have someone in mind,” Arielle admitted off-handedly. “When have I ever disappointed you, Hadrian, other than disappearing? You won’t regret it, I promise.”

With that, Arielle slowly began to rise from his lap, settling one almost-numb foot down on the ground between his before the other. Blood rushed to her legs and they began to tingle, making her steps away from him unpurposefully slow. Running a hand through copper curls, Arielle hummed softly as she gave Hadrian her back. The very same hand came to rest atop the table’s smooth surface, fingers splayed as she leaned forward from the hips. Her games had sparked her appetite, something she couldn’t complain about, and she plucked several purple grapes from their cut vine branch. Stormy gaze was cast back at him from over her shoulder as she remained leaning over the table; the look rather dangerous. “Shall I be considering this deal done, then?”
 

Fates.Gamble

Revendeur de Destin
Joined
Oct 11, 2012
Location
Somewhere out there...
It was all so unreal, having the woman sworn to overthrow him contentedly seated on his lap. While Hadrian hoped his proposal would have a warm reception, he never expected it to be quite this cordial. And yet, somehow it felt no less like a war between them; a contest to see who could perturb the other more. Arielle’s lack of shyness almost made it seem like he was winning in that regard. She may have loved to play her games; to bait and trick him as often as she could, but there was no denying the authenticity in the way his expression made her toes curl, or the way his warm touch sent shivers reverberating throughout her body. He might have pressed such an advantage if Arielle wasn’t adept as keeping him just as wanting. The ease with which her clothes promised to be discarded had him more than a little eager to test the theory as his eyes wandered her body, contemplating over how little stood in his way of it.

“Perhaps I enjoy the occasional fight,” he suggested, contrary to the direction of his thoughts. “And besides, I tend to take my time when unwrapping my gifts. No matter the number of layers.” Hands continued to wander, sliding from her hips up to her waist, with one coming to her stomach where he toyed with the first of the four buttons in his way. His fingers seemed awfully reluctant to make any progress though, as if constantly debating whether to undo it or not. “Oh so very disappointing,” he agreed. There was still no decision made by the time his digits idly moved on to the next button in line. “As if you haven’t taken up enough of my time with this attempt at a conquest.”

Her claims of discretion brought a touch of amusement to his face. Not that he was doubting her capabilities; after all, it was a wonder she made it as far as she did without being spotted, but it was funny to hear her speak of prudence while she sat astride her long-standing enemy, practically begging him to take things further with her suggestive comments. His expression hardened some, however, as she reprimanded him right back. A number of colorful retorts came to mind over the ‘favor’ she’d done him, but he held his tongue, deciding to brush the incident off instead. “How very lucky for me you came here with other intentions, then,” he said tauntingly, staring into her mismatched eyes. Despite the cocky tone, it was an honest statement. Hadrian much preferred her straddling his lap over having a knife at his throat.

“I’ve no doubts in that regard,” he mused over her final declaration. Arielle wasn’t even queen yet and she already seemed keen to please. That, or frustrate me to no end… He decided, trying to maintain composure as she wiggled around in her lap, shuffling all the closer to him. The dark look that flashed in her eyes suggested her approach might not have come with the best intentions, but Hadrian could only smirk at the displeased reaction, his own expression practically challenging her to do something about it. Taunting as ever, Hadrian even lifted the cup for another taste, only to have his intended lash out at him. Arielle was hardly one for inaction, so he was hardly surprised when her hand once again found its way around his throat. There was a bit of thrill and danger as he felt her delicate fingers around the vulnerable flesh, and the daring never left his bright, sea-foam eyes while he watched her.

“A king does as he likes,” he explained over the complaint about his manners. Oh she was one to talk… She could barely grasp the concept of personal space let alone proper etiquette. Not that Hadrian was particularly fretful at the moment… He watched her like a hawk as she leaned towards them, their bodies practically begging to close the space that remained between them. Her breath was like sweet, intoxicating, honey as she drew dangerously near. The hand around his throat hardly seemed necessary at that point, the man had been paralyzed in the moment, his heart practically still while hers continued to thunder. It all left him rather lightheaded when he felt her lips brush against his, soft as rose petals. His lips parted ever so slightly, on the verge of kissing her back had it not been a tease more than anything else. His breath was caught as her tongue ventured out, reclaiming the remnants of her wine on his lips.

His heart was beating furiously again after that, his throat feeling awfully dry as Arielle’s hand retreated down to his chest. The rosy cheeked grin she wore was somehow every bit as alluring as her actions. Her punishment was rather fitting; it’d be tough to get her out of his head after such tantalizing games they were playing.She was a terribly bothersome thought indeed… Not that he would let her know it. In fact he did his best to wear a bored countenance, though the hint of rush in his eyes proved difficult to contain. “Planning to see to that yourself?” he inquired over how distracted his Shield would be. He could only imagine what games and taunts she might have for the staff of the castle. He wasn’t quite certain what to do if she proved too troublesome, but at least in the matter of replacing the man he relieved of duty, she assured him there would be nothing to worry about. “Well, I look forward to meeting them,” he assured her, reserving judgment until he could take full measure of the candidate.

Hadrian straightened up in his chair once Arielle dismounted his lap, his mind and heart still racing as she turned her back and ambled towards the table. It was hard to have eyes for anything but the fiery haired woman who seemed adamant in her goal of teasing him as much as possible. He drank in the lovely visage as she leaned over the table, nonchalantly helping herself to a few grapes. His gaze jumped back up, however, once he caught her spying him over her shoulder. Her blue and green eyes looked as mysterious and mischievous as ever when cast at him that way. Hadrian had never felt so small as he did in her presence, that authoritative air he’d grown so good at maintaining seemingly sucked right out of the room. He had to clear his throat, attempting to clear his head in the process, before he could return to the matter of discussion.

“I think it’s safe to say we have an accord,” he stated, forcing himself to look anywhere but at her for a change. Suddenly wanting to busy himself, he rose from his chair and made his own pace towards the table, careful to keep a wide berth of where she stood as he approached the other side. “Nothing’s set in stone until it’s official, of course. Which brings us to a matter of import…” Hadrian paused as he reached for the jug of remaining wine and topped off the goblet he stole from her, only to return it at last. He emptied the remainder of the pitcher into his own cup before returning his attention to her. “When shall we be married? The sooner the better if you ask me; our little lordlings are quite ancy over seeing you leave the grounds with a head still upon your shoulders. Better we make your position clear before they’ve had much time to stew over it.”
 

alexandra1405

Mischief from Down Under
Joined
Dec 7, 2018
Arielle slowly straightened, the tilt of her hips releasing as her hand that pressed against the tabletop swept around to rub at the small of her back as if it pained her. The playfulness and shine to her eyes dimmed just a fraction, as if Arielle was growing tired; not with this conversation but simply of the day. The promise of rest the recently vacated chair was far too good to pass up; the wood and upholstery still warm from Hadrian’s body heat and far too appealing. With three steps backwards, her bare feet padding softly against the floor, Arielle clasped the carved arms of the chair as she settled within it, her legs folded into a lap. Fingers splayed and clasped at the curved ends of the armrests, hands settled there and unmoving. Toes wiggled beneath her thighs, bringing warmth to them as they pushed against the heated cushion beneath her. Mismatched eyes swept over the table to Hadrian’s face, taking the time to lazily gaze at his features. It was almost difficult to pin the man before her as being one and the same as the young crown prince she once used to tease and tempt towards childish play, despite her father’s scolding and the King’s rage at their games in the hallways. She wondered whether there was still a seed of childlike wonder and curiosity within him as it was her.

“I’m sorry,” she mused, albeit a little flatly as she gave him a tired smile in a poor attempt at sarcasm, “I didn’t realise your time was so precious and I shouldn’t be taking up so much of your time. And here I was believing you to be enjoying my company for perhaps the first time in a very long time.”

Ocean blue and forest green eyes were finally dragged away from Hadrian’s face by the motion of him refilling both goblets, but it wasn’t stolen for long. The second the flow of red wine ceased, her gaze returned to his face, as if she was unable to look away for long at all. “Thank you,” she murmured warmly, fondly, as she offered him a small, polite smile. Arielle rose from the chair for just a moment, reaching over to clasp the stem of the goblet before settling back down and bringing it to settle atop the flat of the armrest between her fingers. “How soon do you think is too soon?” The question was honest and open-minded, Arielle seemingly unsure as to how quickly to progress. Too quickly and the entire nation would likely have their heads, neither side given enough time to come to terms with the new alliance between enemy leaders. Then again, too slowly and there would be little time to change the civil war that was occurring at all. In fact, it would be entirely counterintuitive considering the entire reason for their alliance was to end the civil war.

The rim of the goblet was slow to rise to her lips, Arielle seeming to take her time with the movement as if she was distracted by the man before her. Though, just before it met her lips, she tipped it towards Hadrian as if in a toast. “Thank you for vacating your chair, my dear,” Arielle purred, though the spritely life didn’t entirely reach her eyes, “though your body warmth would have been much more greatly appreciated.” Cool metal brushed the seam of her lips, being stained with the red wine as she took a purposefully long sip. Her arm was slow to extend once more as the goblet came to settle again on the armrest. “Perhaps you’d like to take a seat upon my lap this time, if only to feel as though you have power. Well,” Arielle shrugged, “over me at least.”

One elegantly long leg unravelled from her lap to stretch out and swing just as they both had done when she’d been seated on the edge of the table not long ago. “We need to be smart about this, Hadrian. While it’s far too fun for me to tease you endlessly and get inside your head this deal can be our saving grace but also our downfall. I can’t stress this enough, Hadrian, we need to tread carefully.” Arielle fell silent once more, those vividly coloured eyes seeming to stare through his mortal shell and into his soul as if she really knew him. A finger tapped against the stem of the goblet. “Perhaps you would be open to considering a short tour, if only for a couple of days, where we can promote the new ideal of a united people. Political, yes, but necessary. Desperately so. I would need to ask a favour of you first.”

Another leg uncrossed, her bare foot settling beside the first on the floor as she leaned across the space and set the goblet down upon the table; no longer interested in warming her belly with wine. Her cheeks had remained blushed beneath the bronze freckles, even the tip of her nose a shade of pretty pink. Clasping the armrests, Arielle pushed herself slowly to her feet, taking a moment to stand there before she made a point to move towards him as Hadrian stood by the table’s edge. She couldn’t help it. Like a moth drawn to flame, Arielle found herself seeking his attention, in a way that was far less innocent than it had been when they were younger. She couldn’t deny that her heart had raced, painfully so, within her chest as Hadrian had fiddled with the lower buttons of her shirt, and how the warmth of his hands settled on the narrow of her waist so easily. As much as she toyed with him, there was something within Hadrian that left him an enigma to her. Arielle came to stand at his side, facing his shoulder with very little space between them at all.

“When we’re out on the road, I need you to trust me,” Arielle states rather matter-of-factly, a hand coming to touch the back of his elbow lightly. “When and not if. You’re an intelligent man, Hadrian, but it doesn’t take a genius to know or assume whom my alliances were forged with. Highway men, criminals, mercenaries, men of sinister and twisted natures. I didn’t make deals with nice people, and if we want at least half of the people whom follow....followed my cause, then we need to start with them. Discreetly.” Pink tongue ran the seam of her lips and thumb ran over the space of his elbow. “Your counsel certainly won’t entertain the idea of this, but I would like for you to understand that they have their uses. We can’t cast them aside, despite how much you may wish to, or else they’ll simply carry on what I was attempting to accomplish, only crueller and with less finesse.” There was a short pause before copper brow rose. “Do you understand what I’m trying to say, Hadrian?” Hand smoothed down to clasp at his wrist, squeezing lightly. “Let me handle the dark side of business. Don’t you think it’s best to keep a leash on a feral dog and allow it to bark and carry on on some occasions, rather than letting it be dangerous and wild and free to maim whomever crosses its path?”

Just as Hadrian had found his hands fiddling with her buttons and settling upon hips and waist, Arielle’s own fingers began to run along the top of his trousers, absentmindedly.
 

Fates.Gamble

Revendeur de Destin
Joined
Oct 11, 2012
Location
Somewhere out there...
Hadrian couldn’t help but to see a certain symbolism in the way Arielle claimed his chair practically the moment he vacated it. It was all too easy to imagine the seat as his throne, and she, ever the rebel, playing the usurper for it. Hopefully playing was all it amounted to be, for the games of politics could become all too real if this was anything more nefarious than coltish flirting and frustrating. Benefit of the doubt… He had to remind himself as he took her in, feeling like a ball of string over the way those multicolored eyes tried to unravel him. “My time can be precious and I can still enjoy your company,” he stated. Truthfully he was still trying to decide if he enjoyed this or not. Arielle kept him guessing enough over his tenure as King, and he wasn’t oblivious to the fact she would probably keep him guessing for the rest of their lives if this marriage worked out. Even now, where he might have acted on all of the tension and signals with another woman, he felt remained uncertain about how to act with her.

Matters of discussion turned to the serious again, and that helped distract him from all the teasing. Hadrian took a deep drink of his wine, savoring the taste and mulling over the question she posed. He wasn’t really sure how soon was too soon either; this wasn’t exactly the sort of thing he had experience in, after all. “Well,” he started to say after a long consideration, “We don’t want this to seem like it was decided on a whim, otherwise no one will take it seriously. The people need to see that we’ve given this a fair amount of thought, and aren’t simply trying to appease ourselves. We should make our intentions clear sometime beforehand, I think. Allow the people to address us with their concerns before we go through with it.”

As usual she found a way to revert to her playful tendencies before they could come up with a solid plan. Hadrian smirked some as she lorded the theft of his spot over him, only to lament that she would have preferred the man himself. She was the one who fled his lap; wasn’t he warm enough for her then? He uttered a slight chuckle as she offered a turning of the table, and he merely shook his head with a sense of amusement. “I imagine you’d like that,” he said, watching her with a daring expression as she taunted him with displaying power over her. “Why have me chase you all these years if you didn’t want to be caught and put in your place?”

Her teasing was quick to dip back into more solemn matters as usual, though Hadrian scarcely needed her advice over treading carefully. That piercing look she wielded silenced any retort over that, however. He was caught in that gaze like a fly in a web, left wordless as he watched her right back over the rim of his cup. “A tour? He repeated once she finally brought her idea to the table. IT wasn’t the worst idea, what better way to make such an announcement than straight to the common people themselves? Before they could get into the details, though, the conversation was halted by her request of a favor. She must have been growing used to Hadrian’s skepticism by now, and it was present as ever in those soft green eyes of his as he waited to hear what this favor might be.

“Go on then,” he invited her to speak when her proposal was not immediately forthcoming. Instead, she abandoned the chair she’d only just celebrated having taken, once again closing space between them as though this distance itself was uncomfortable for her. His eyes never left hers as she stalked all the nearer, just inches away now, and finally laid out the foundations of her request. A slight frown took his face once he realized where this was going. Oh he knew well some of the factions that backed her and her rebel army; not that he could blame her for playing dirty at the time. The odds of this war were greatly stacked against her motley forces before forging such alliances. Indeed, it was the use of such underhanded scoundrels that kept them kicking for this long. Cutting corners and dealing in a bit of shady business was all well and fine when it came to fighting wars, but it was another matter entirely when rebuilding the structure of their kingdom.

He didn’t like where this was going; not one bit if he was honest. So he was just supposed to trust her to keep on with her seedy business? “And I’m supposed to believe that’s the lesser of two evils?” he challenged, trying to ignore the distraction of her touch, or the way her fingers carelessly fumbled with the brim of his trousers. “I’m to just look away while you cavort with criminals and murderers and who knows what other deplorable sort? I’d say that’s a little more than giving you the benefit of the doubt.” Hadrian forcefully pushed playful hands aside and stepped away before turning his back on her. Of course it was like she said: He was no fool; he knew all too well how useful such allies could be. But he also knew just how callous and destructive they could be. Every time he held court there came another sob story from his subjects; of raids, theft, murder, and violations even more despicable. Was he truly upholding his values in uplifting this country if he looked the other way when it came to the men responsible? He considered it long and hard before finally speaking his mind.

“If I am to agree to this,” he started, chewing over his words, “There must be no secrets between us. I will not be kept in the dark when it comes to the goings-on of this little underground world you intend to keep running. If an important matter should come up, you will not take action unless we’ve discussed things first. And even then, only if we are in agreement. No games,” he added at the end, glancing back at her over his shoulder, “And no surprises.” It occurred to Hadrian that his demands might be displaying his lack of trust more than anything else, but this shaky alliance was still too new to put blind faith in her. Only a true fool would do that. But he also understood that the two halves of their kingdom would never be whole without at least putting some trust in her ways.

Either way, the democracy of it all was working up his thirst, leaving him decided that there wasn’t enough wine for all these topics let alone the slog of their impending financial discussions. He drained another hearty portion of his goblet before returning his attention to her, and getting back to the specifics. “Assuming we take this royal tour, I think it best if we were to start in the free lands. No doubt your people will be the harder sell on this… It would be better if the news came straight from the source, I imagine, rather than gossip carried there from the capitol. Bearing that in mind, where would we begin?” The idea of crossing enemy lines gave him just the slightest prickle of excitement and nervousness. The danger was no less real just because the two of them had chosen to play nice. The passion of the people was still very much heated, and there was every bit of a chance that the declaration of their union would only serve to exacerbate the situation.
 

alexandra1405

Mischief from Down Under
Joined
Dec 7, 2018
As hands were pushed away from him with enough force that Arielle clasped them together and held them to her chest, she frowned slightly and nibbled the inside of her cheek. Had he brushed her away because of what she suggested or because he simply didn’t want to entertain her gentle touchings? Moving to lean against the edge of the table, the wood digging into the plump flesh of her ass, Arielle kept her hands to her chest as if he’d wounded her with his blunt dismissal. Politely, she remained silent, though her eyes continued to track his movements as Hadrian moved about the table. Even as he laid out his terms, Arielle remained quiet, seeming to mull over his words as she ran the tip of pink tongue across the seam of her lips.

“Hadrian,” she murmured softly, crossing arms under her bust, “I think you misunderstand what it is I’m trying to say. I’m not suggesting that you sit by while I do such a thing as covert with criminals.” A look crossed her face, as if Hadrian had deeply offended her by suggesting her wicked enough to ask the sovereign to turn a blind eye. “I was merely suggesting that you give me enough time to collar them. How many years have they been wild and feral in the spoils of war? Imagine how they would react to the news that, all of a sudden, the woman they had allied themselves with was now putting an end to their dealings and putting a price on their heads. There’d be an uproar, the most brutal kind.” Her arms slowly fell, moving from beneath her bust to wrap around her middle as if she was chilled. “I just need some time to get them to understand, to offer them a smooth transition. There will always be a use for violent men; whether that’s keeping the borders secure or ensuring political enemies are thwarted.” Mismatched eyes found his gaze and held it boldly. “I’ve been keeping the borders tight. I didn’t want to risk some other pig headed fool to catch wind of the civil war and believe himself strong enough to thwart you. If the sovereign was going to be usurped, it would have been by me and me only. Not by some foreign boar. You may not like it, but ultimately these men kept this kingdom safe from being raided by any other royalty that sought to claim this land amidst the civil war.”

The sharp of her chin tilted upwards, Arielle levelling her gaze with Hadrian’s own when he finally turned to face her. “No secrets, no games and no surprise. I know that I need to prove to you that you can trust me, that it will take, perhaps, the same amount of years it did for you not to trust me.” Hands fell from her middle, coming the clasp the edge of the wood table behind her back, her position open and vulnerable. “I’m not asking for you to turn a blind eye to the criminal activity, Hadrian, I’m just asking you to allow me to handle them. But nonetheless, I won’t take any action or make any decisions without first discussing it with you.”

Even Arielle was struggling to understand how quickly she was being swept in these negotiations. Was she becoming corrupted by Hadrian’s morals, or was it the wine going to her head?

“The free lands seem like the perfect place to begin; start with the hardest and end with the easiest to convert. It only makes sense. May I suggest that we begin in Jamal? From my experience out there on the edge, they’re the most forward thinking of the lot and may be more open to listening to what we have to say.” A copper brow rose in question, arching gently.

A sigh escaped her parted lips, a milky hand running through the wild curls of her hair before Arielle began to lean backwards to rest upon her elbows that dig into the tabletop. “Is it just me, or is this conversation stealing the energy from you, too?” It wasn’t that she was growing bored. She doubted she could ever grow bored in Hadrian’s presence and her ability to endlessly tease him. Instead, the night was growing late and the moon high, and her training in the forest with a battle axe had made her muscles ache. Leaning to the side just a fraction, Arielle clasped at the tight muscle of her shoulder, rubbing gently.

“I suppose we have many days to discuss this, now that we seemed to have come to an agreement,” Arielle drew a hand over her mouth as she yawned quietly. “I shall leave you to enjoy your evening, and I don’t doubt I’ll be seeing you again tomorrow bright and early.” Secretly, Arielle hoped that he would extend the invitation for her to sleep in a proper, plush bed. She hoped he would extend the invitation for her to relish in his company, if only to discuss something a little less.....hard to swallow.
 

Fates.Gamble

Revendeur de Destin
Joined
Oct 11, 2012
Location
Somewhere out there...
The young king didn’t expect such a wounded reaction from Arielle. She was ever brash and confident, he didn’t think a rejection would put her off so easily. Her offended expression as she tried to explain, on the other hand, now that was a look he was used to. Hadrian wasn’t much for filters when he spoke his mind; he’d earned looks like that on multiple occasions. His suspicions were still abound, they would be a hard thing to cure after so many years of war and deceit, but he found himself mostly satisfied with her response. “Well... I suppose a collared dog is better than a rabid one,” he agreed, seeing the sense in her argument. That didn’t mean he was fond of leaving the situation exclusively in her hands. But, it was like she said, this was never going to work if he didn’t learn to trust her.

So he decided not to argue for the moment, simply nodding along with her words while anxiously swirling the remnants of wine, watching as the crimson fluid lapped about. Reluctance continued to plague his mind all the while. An endless list of ‘What if’s’ haunted his thoughts. On the one hand everything she suggested was logical, on the other he couldn’t ignore that putting her lackeys in charge of the border meant she had total control over who came and went. He berated himself over the thought… Wasn’t this union his idea in the first place? These concerns weren’t nearly so loud before his proposal, so why was he so jittery over it now? Perhaps it was the ease with which she’d accepted this, or how quickly things were moving now that it was all real. It was difficult to accept she had good intentions after having played the usurper for so long.

With a breath, Hadrian washed all of those ideas away, his soft eyes drinking her in as she made her vows, knowing it would take time before he fully trusted her, and they were finally able to move on from the topic. “As long as we’re clear on that point,” he said once she’d finished, his tone much softer now. It was clear he’d have to keep an open mind as far as Arielle was involved, or they could possibly be at each others throats again before long. At least there was no difference of opinion as far as this potential tour was concerned. There was, perhaps, a little bit of nervous anticipation over entering the lands to the North before an official end to this conflict. While the ire of the free peoples had mostly been earned by his father, desperate men were often too blinded by their anger to see him as a different person. To them he would still be a crowned oppressor, and unlike Arielle he would not be able to rely on the art of subterfuge while moving about enemy lands. He would be a wide open target.

He considered her suggestion of where to start for a moment; it was a long ride but she made a good point. He kept any skepticism at bay this time, deciding to trust fully in her judgement for once. “Alright then,” he said, “We can work out the finer details later, but I’ll see to some of the arrangements in the morning.” Hadrian wasn’t really one to rest on his laurels, even if they were in the early stages of planning things. Truth be told he wasn’t feeling nearly so drained as Arielle; the impending trip had actually ignited a spark of vigor within him. The potential danger was still a little disconcerting, but there was also excitement. To strike out on a journey, bearing witness to the lands he’d not set his eyes upon in many years. Making the trip would be a far cry more interesting than treating with officials all day.

“I shall need to explain this to my council as well,” he remarked, now that his mind had turned in that direction, and that did a fine job of sapping away some of his new-found vigor. He could already picture the debate it would spark, and even now was considering whether or not he should tell the whole truth of it. It would ensure word of their plans did not come out before their visit to Jamal at least, but if he withheld too much from the dignitaries, their suspicions could win them over. And Hadrian still wasn’t entirely sure who to trust when it came to the majority of his father’s old circle. It seemed with every decision as regent, he would be required to walk a razor thin line.

But Arielle was right, there was still time to discuss these things in the coming days. She was looking rather weary, besides, and not just from the topic of conversation. While she rubbed at her sore muscles and stifled a yawn, Hadrian finished the last of his wine and set the drained goblet back upon the table. He could sense her desire t to stay in the way she lingered over her own dismissal, like she was waiting for the invitation rather than to make the request. In fact, he’d already had a room prepared for her earlier that day. True to his word, Hadrian was willing to be far more hospitable now that she’d accepted his proposal. In fact, he’d already had a room prepared for her just in case of such an event. But now he hesitated, his mind running back to all the tempting little mannerisms between them before he’d abruptly brought them to an end. He couldn’t help but regret that somewhat now, as the action certainly hadn’t been for lack of enjoyment.

“You’re welcome to stay this time, if you like…” he offered, though paused for a moment as he considered whether he should just extend to invitation to his own chambers instead. Something about the way those mysterious eyes focused on him said that she would be more than happy to accept, as if her words and actions weren’t enough to tell him already. But in the end, Hadrian couldn’t take the plunge. Things were far too new and delicate to take such a risk right now, leaving him to tell her about the room he’d prepared instead. “It’s on the third floor,” he explained, “I trust you’ll find it rather accommodating.”

As mischievous as she was, Hadrian had to wonder if Arielle wouldn’t just invite herself into his solar anyway. She’d already shown a penchant for sneaking around this castle; creeping up to his room and slipping into bed seemed like it would be par for the course, really. He’d be lying if he said he hated the idea of it… But there was still that nagging part of his brain that told him not to get too close. She’d killed plenty of men on the battlefield. A sleeping man would be a much easier target. “I’ll speak with Caius and make sure he knows you’re to be given free reign,” Hadrian assured her, despite the suspicious thoughts in his head, “We wouldn’t want the guards running you down twice in one night, now would we? So make yourself at home.” After all, that’s what she’d be calling it if things went well.

Any further invitations of his company, however, were promptly denied, as Hadrian soon excused himself, and left her alone in the dining room to seek out his Shield. Once he had, he quickly explained the situation, which drew a questioning look from the man, but he did not question the orders, and quickly made sure it was known throughout the guard. By that point, Hadrian was feeling rather lethargic. His time between dinner and Arielle had been the only moments of respite throughout the day, but still he avoided retiring to his chambers and decided to keep himself busy instead. If he was to be leaving the castle for an extended period of time, then there were no small number of matters to attend to. As such, the next couple hours were spent in his study, where Hadrian poured himself into work.

Between surveying a large map of the region and debating the best route for this tour, and checking financial records for potential solutions to their debt, Hadrian tried to keep himself distracted. Yet it was no good. His eyes swept over the documents, reading the words but hardly registering any of it as his mind kept turning back to Arielle and the stir she caused. Her fiery red hair burned in his mind, but it was nothing close to the inferno of those chimerical eyes, drawing him like a moth to flame. Try as he might to force her out of his mind, it was frustratingly difficult, but he focused on his work as much as possible, hoping to exhaust himself out of another sleepless night tossing and turning beneath the covers. He was thoroughly drained by the time he finally did return to the solar, and after one restless night he’d successfully rendered his mind unable to contemplate anything but sleep. He sluggishly disrobed before dropping into his lusciously soft bed, and willed himself to sleep straight unto morning.
 

alexandra1405

Mischief from Down Under
Joined
Dec 7, 2018
The muscle at Arielle’s shoulder was a dull ache, radiating down through the blade at her back as if following the track of her spine. Neck craned backwards, face tilting towards the ceiling as red hair tumbled over shoulders and downwards to the tabletop she leaned against. The hand that squeezed at it roughly did so once more, before falling away. No matter how harshly she squeezed, or how roughly she rubbed, whatever knot had begun to develop in her shoulder showed no signs of budging. Instead, Arielle rolled out her neck as if she’d slept crookedly on the floor before the fire the night prior, and ran fingers the length of her neck.

“We have an understanding,” she reassured after some time, brushing a knuckle against the underside of her nose to relieve a sudden itch. “And yes, having a rabid dog collated is much better than having it wild. Besides, isn’t that what you’re attempting to do with me? Heel the feral dog that’s been at your door?” There was no malice to her voice, and certainly no judgment, Arielle felt as though she were simply stating facts about the matter at hand. She knew very well of Hadrian’s motivations, and that they were purely altruistic in the sense that he was sacrificing himself and his potential happiness for the safety of his people and kingdom. Wisps of red hair fell about her face; wild and free and very much untamed, just the way Arielle was. The smile she gave Hadrian was small, but nevertheless genuine, though not quite reaching her bi-coloured eyes. Hadrian had every reason in the world not to trust her, her father had spent years trying to overthrow his own before she took it upon herself to usurp him. Arielle needed to remind herself that he had every reason to distrust her, and that she needed to work in order to earn it. It would be wrong of her to expect him to so easily put faith in her. And so, silently and only to herself, she made a promise that she’d prove to him that he could rely on her. It wouldn’t matter how long it would take, Arielle would work hard in order to earn that and his respect. But why did she care so much about either of those when he was the son of a tyrant with similar views? Shouldn’t she be trying to worm her way inside his head in order to get him to trust her so that she could usurp him from the inside; like a spy?

It didn’t take a genius to know that Arielle wasn’t on the losing side, but it also didn’t take a genius to know that the country was paying for it horribly. Civil war would always wreak havoc on the people and the economy. While her goal had been the opposite, the civil war had lead to pockets of famine, poverty and pure unrest in the people. War was never pleasant. It hadn’t taken Arielle very much time to realise that this was her only real option in keeping the country as whole as possible, and trying to restore some patriotic sense. If she had of kept going, or even refused his offer, Arielle could imagine a country on the edge of becoming savage that would very quickly have been conquered by any number of neighbouring kingdoms when they grew weak. Hadrian had extended an olive branch and, in turn, offered his kingdom peace as some sense of normality.

Blinking twice, Arielle soon realised that she’d slipped into her thoughts and lost track of where she was. Exhausted from a day’s hard training out in the forest, and despite the lengthy sleep by the hearth, Arielle’s mind was growing foggy with sleep even as she stood against the table’s edge. “I will leave the explaining to you, Hadrian. I have a feeling that you’re much better than I am at playing castle politics and their intricate mind games while they surely try and trap me in some elaborate web. I will do my best to keep my profile low until then, I would hate to rub my presence in their faces only for them to turn their noses up at me later. But I cannot guarantee that I will be mellow should one of them run into me.” Arielle might have recognised the need for Hadrian to handle his council himself, but she certainly wouldn’t become some shrinking violet in order to keep the peace. This was who she was; take it or leave it. If his council had any issues, she’d cop it on the chin, but she damn well wouldn’t be changing who she was. “I’ll play nice,” Arielle smiles warmly across at him, though her eyes were fogged and tired, “Well....as nice as I can, at least, but I promise they’ll return to you in one piece.”

Still leaning against the table, her arms crossed under heavy bust as mismatched eyes watched Hadrian move about the room like a predator would track prey. Though, while she had looked across at him not long ago with undeniable wickedness, such shine was absent from her now-tired eyes. Hadrian invited her to stay, but was clear on where she was to sleep, and to remain until morning. This was what the rest of her life would be like; married to a man she slept apart from unless he invited her to his chambers before having his way only to send her back shortly after. Arielle had no doubt that Hadrian had it in him to be kind to her, eventually, but she knew very well that she had decades to make up for. She didn’t deserve a minute of his kindness considering the things she had done, conspired to do, and encouraged. Arielle was this kingdom’s true tyrant according to some, where she was the one propelling the country into darkness by way of civil war. She conspired to have his head, to take his throne and give it to the people, to plunder and thieve his treasures if only to disperse it among the poor. Arielle might have been a beautiful face with a sing song voice that spoke of revolution and democracy and freedom, but she was every bit violent as Hadrian’s father, only she did it with charm and finesse. So, who was she to think that Hadrian would even consider being kind to her after being and doing all of that?

Her throat rose and fell in a bob as she swallowed, his words practically a scold to her ears as he spoke of the chambers he had readied for her, no doubt corridors and floors away from his own. A smart king would not take chances with a woman like her. A smart king would put her down like a sick dog in the middle of the night while she slept peacefully, thinking herself safe. A smart king would have her head on a spike by the morning so he wouldn’t have to suffer through the deal he proposed and the trouble she’d likely create, to go on and continue down whatever path he wished to follow. But would Hadrian have it in him to ask for her head when she slept? Cut the head off the Hydra and it would grow two in its place.

Arielle, slightly lost in her thoughts and pondering as to whether Hadrian would kill her swiftly or slowly, simply nodded when he spoke of warning Caius of her presence in the castle. While she’d surely be amused at causing more of a ruckus, she knew that it would work well in her favour should they not question her movements in the middle of the night. She had the habit of waking in the early hours of the morning from a vivid dream, needing to take a walk before she’d be able to settle back to sleep. She didn’t need Hadrian’s guards attempting to escort her back to her guest quarters when she’d woken from something so nightmarish. “Rest well, Hadrian,” Arielle called to him, genuinely wishing him good rest. The darkness beneath his eyes hadn’t been missed by her, nor the tiredness that he held in his shoulders. His role as King had surely been weighing on him for some time, and last night had been no different. Had he stayed awake until the early hours of the morning as he wondered what she’d decide? “I shall see you in the morning.”

The wood of the door creaked as it opened and closed behind him, sealing Arielle inside and alone as the King moved out and down the corridor. Arielle couldn’t help but wonder whether he was desperate to escape her company. Sore shoulders slumped a fraction, the aches turning to angry throbs that demanded rest. The day had stolen a lot from her, and Arielle had no doubt that she’d fall into a deep slumber the moment she slipped into the prepared bed. It had been weeks since she’d slept in a proper bed, having slept among the hay in a barn for so long, but it had been years since she’d slept in a bed of high quality that made her feel as if she were floating. Either she’d sleep like the dead or not at all, feeling comfortable was an odd thing that could do either. With a deep sigh escaping her lungs through parted lips, Arielle uncrossed her arms and pushed away from the table. Milky hands clasped a goblet and the rest of the wine Hadrian had set atop to table, not wanting a good vintage to be spoiled and wasted. She’d take it to bed with her and finish it off, even if it weren’t the bedfellow she was interested in luring.

It took her longer than it should have to make her way to the designated quarters that Hadrian had prepared for her, though she was incredibly grateful when she stumbled inside and was hit with a wall of heat from the crackling fire at the end of the large wooden bed. The room itself wasn’t as elegant as she’d imagine a royal’s quarters to be, but then again it was just guest quarters and not designed to be a residence. It was homely, however, to say the least. Warm velvets in welcoming shades, more pillows than anyone could possibly sleep with, a black winged chair by the crackling fire that looked just as comfortable to sleep within as the king sized bed. The air was warm, enough that Arielle stepped further into the otherwise dark void of the room to close the door behind her before she dumped her boots to the side and began to undress. Tight fitting trousers were slowly dragged down over milky thighs, only to become stuck at her ankles and needing to be tugged roughly over her feet. Shaken out, turned the right way in and draped over the back of the wing chair, Arielle ran a hand through the red flame of her hair as she moved towards the bed, unbuttoning those that Hadrian’s wandering fingertips hadn’t already done so of her shirt. The mustard silk shirt was discarded to the side, Arielle’s clothes becoming a trail towards the bed before she peeled back the covers and slipped inside. She’d slept on less and in less, and she wasn’t expecting any visitors.

Though, when sleep finally sunk its claws into Arielle, her hand was beneath a plush pillow and clasped a letter opener which she’d found in a drawer tightly. Just in case.

***​

The ground was red. The kind of red that was almost black and viscous. Crimson. Blood-red. It stuck to the heels of marching boots. It fell from the black sky like acid rain, staining cloth and skin and ground alike. The air was acrid and heavy, soot stuffing noses and stinging eyes. The world burned as the ground bled and the sky wept red. Ash drifted on absent wind, falling to the broken landscape like grey snow. It smelt of fear, burning flesh, iron and death. Everything smelt of death.

Men spilled forth but no matter how hard they pushed forward or how many steps they took, they didn’t move an inch. The land about them was desolate, nothing but scorched grass and stumps of a forest burnt to the ground. The mud squelched underfoot, sending a wave of crimson over boots up to ankle. Corpses lay piled about them, some in heaps pierced by a flagpole like a macabre meat skewer and others having gained the attention of rabid rodents with red glowing eyes or swarms of flesh eating flies. Red acid rain hissed and sizzled as it landed upon bare skin, stinging and eating flesh from the bone as it fell in fat droplets from the black soot clouds above.

On the opposite edge of the torched field was a line of men in robes and armour, unlike those that marched in leather and cloth. They had a lustre to them, the kind that came when metal was polished with oil. They cried in rage, the flesh from their faces melting from cheekbones and skulls as scalp sloughed from skull in clumps to fall among dismembered comrades. Their chests bore the crest of the king, but even that was beginning to burn away from the blood acid rain. Their swords were held in one hand, muscles strained in rage and fury as they, too, charged forward but made no headway.

Arielle, it seemed, found herself right in the centre of the warring forces, only she was bound, gagged and shoved to her knees. Struggle as she might, the noose around her throat only tightened with every flinch, the rough wires around her body beginning to cut into supple flesh. Razor wire are her mouth carved into the corners of her cheeks until blood trickled down towards her jaw. Naked and bleeding, her flesh stung with the falling rain, though hers didn’t seem to slough away from the bone. Instead, it sizzled and seared, the smell of burning flesh staining her nose.

This had to be a nightmare. What else could it be?

A figure loomed above her. Its presence was felt at first before it was seen from the corner of her eyes. Black. Tall. Glowing gold eyes with an evil intent. It didn’t need a mouth full of razor sharp teeth to present a sneer to her, she could see it in its eyes, but it gave her a view of shark teeth regardless. Limbs were spindly, forever changing shape and never settling on a form as if it were made of black ink or goo. Those beady eyes shone with an intelligence beyond words.


T’agavorakan ark’unik’um ch’ar mard kar, vory margareut’yunner er asum. Na miamit t’agavori khorhrdakann er, vory t’unavorvets’ ir sterov. T’agavorut’yan tirakaly iskapes ays mardn er ՝ hetaga tsragrer kazmelov. T’agavorin varakel ir k’aghts’r dzaynov, bayts’ sirty `sarruyts’i pes sarry.

Blood grew cold and sluggish in veins. Mind drew eerily empty and heart stilled in chest. The being moved before her, not quite a creature but not merely shadow. Darkness swirled about it, lifting droplets of red blood from the scorched grass beneath it. Whatever it was, it chilled Arielle to the bone.

Ish hrashagorts yem. Ish hazar anun unem, zangir indz inch’ uzum ish. Ayn mardik, ovk’er kartsum yen, vor ish khaghaghut’yan margare yem, indz anvanum yen Hister. Ish hima kkhndrem anarkhiayi, k’aghak’ats’iakan paterazmi mej. T’agavorut’yuny k’andely im mi mets kamk’n e, sa irakanum klini.

Shadow shifted into inky tentacle, rough and cutting against already tortured flesh of her thigh. It sucked at milky skin, biting and bleeding and feasting upon pain as wire cut deeper into the corners of her mouth. The beast had no face just as it had no voice; words simply spoken directly into mind as Arielle writhed.

Misht himarats’nelov t’agavorin. Shnch’vogh k’aos yev paterazm.

Men were released from their pointless marching, finally able to rush forward with blood thirst and pure rage. Arielle tried to take a breath but no air reached her lungs, instead met with a cloud of soot as the beast stroked her cheek with a talon and said in common tongue;

I am coming.

***​

Velvet sheets and bear pelt blankets were kicked aside as Arielle sat bolt upright within the bed. With letter opener pointed out at the dark air about her as if she were expecting an intruder, she sat with her heart pounding. The fire had died long ago, with no embers even aglow in the ash, and the room chilled several degrees. The blade she wielded had cut through the air with intention to slash anything that was before her as she shot up from her slumber, jerked awake from the nightmare. But was that all it was? Just a nightmare? Heart pounded painfully against her chest, ready to leap from between her ribs. Her legs felt heavy and numb, her mind reeling as she tried to make sense of what she was sure she’d seen. Her heart told her what she’d seen was real, but her mind told her it couldn’t be possible. Milky skin was slick with a sheen of sweat, wisps of red hair glued to her forehead and temples.

“Just a dream,” Arielle hissed through grit teeth, her jaw refusing to release its tight clench as if the muscles were locked. It didn’t matter how much she chanted the phrase, it didn’t settle her. Letter opener was dropped to her lap, her knuckles still white as it clenched it tightly. The blankets that still clung to her legs desperately were roughly kicked off as if they disgusted her, Arielle slipping from the bed and plucking her shirt from the floor. It was tugged over head, arms threaded through, but not once was that letter opener set down. Pants and boots were left by the door, the shirt falling to her mid-thighs now that it wasn’t tucked into trousers. The door creaked as Arielle made her way out into the corridor, slipping out from the room and keeping to the shadows as she crept about the castle.

The nightmare had shaken Arielle to her core, adrenaline raging through her veins and promising no further sleep. Instead, it promised her a dark landscape that would surely meet her again should she close her eyes. She wouldn’t. She couldn’t. Not after it had spoken to her in native tongue. The creature’s words were forged in the language of the people up north, those whom lived so far into the wilderness they were often considered myth. Arielle’s mother had been born to a northern tribe, and before her early death had taught her daughter her native tongue. Perhaps it was just a nightmare. Perhaps it was just her mind manifesting her fears in her exhaustion-induced sleep state. But that creature had carried a message; that it was intent of ruining the world and this kingdom was only the beginning. It had spoken of something far worse, something that had Arielle keeping to the darkness of the shadows as she made her way through twisting corridors and spirally staircases.

Hadrian’s quarters weren’t easy to find but her feet had carried her there in very little time. She didn’t knock; he’d likely be fast asleep anyway and she was almost certain that he wouldn’t rouse as she slid silently within the space. Unlike her own, the wooden door did not creak, nor did it announce her arrival. Instead, it gave Arielle the benefit of silence, allowing her to creep into the centre of the room to settle down upon the floor at the end of the bed. Why had she come here?

It was just a dream. It was just some childish nightmare that my mind created in a state of exhaustion. It was as real as a pixie or banshee. It’s not worth waking him.

But the nightmare had unsettled her beyond belief, Arielle laying down on her side and pulling legs to her chest as she curled inwards on herself. An arm bent beneath her head, forming a makeshift pillow against the hard floor. Arielle did not sleep, nor did she dare close her eyes even when she became drowsy. She needed to keep awake. She wouldn’t be going back there. Instead, she remained curled up at the foot of his bed like a cat until morning. When the sun began to peak through, only then did Arielle allow her eyes to flutter closed.

It’s not worth waking him.
 

Fates.Gamble

Revendeur de Destin
Joined
Oct 11, 2012
Location
Somewhere out there...
While Hadrian was practically out the moment he nestled into the soft sheets of his bed, his reveries were as active as ever. Yet, from one hazy dream to the next, every image in his head was invaded by his bride to be; from memories of their childhood, to murky imaginings of a future with her as his wife, and all interspersed with his every day anxieties over running a kingdom. But most of all, his dreams settled on the two of them back in the dining room. Only, in this unreal rendition, they’d never left that room. His fingers had forgotten their hesitation, working swiftly to free each and every one of those buttons he toyed with. Arielle’s fleeting brush of a kiss had evolved into something much deeper and far more passionate, the urge and heat rising between them with the fury of a storm.

But the sun broke through before it could swell any further, burning it all away with its annoying brightness. Hadrian’s eyes fluttered open, heavy and blear, only to be blinded by the light of morning. They were promptly closed again, with the king rolling over, offering his back to the warm sunlight instead. He could only sigh with lament over being torn away from such an interesting dream. He used it as an excuse to try and sleep in a little longer. Maybe if he drifted off quick enough he could find his way there again without interruption this time… There were no consequences for being heady and reckless with his intended if it was just a dream, after all. Sleep, however, failed to come.

Hadrian only managed to rest his eyes for a few seconds before he grew aware of the other presence in the room. After finding his father murdered remains, the fledgling king had spent many a night lying awake in bed, listening for the most infinitesimal sounds that might betray someone sneaking in for a repeat at regicide. He must have been in a deep sleep if he didn’t hear them coming in, but he was keenly aware of them. The slightest shift on the floor, the gentle sound of breathing… He lay perfectly still for a long moment, straining his ears to make sure he wasn’t just imagining it. He was ready to spring into action if he wasn’t, yet there came no sound of approaching footsteps or anything like that. In fact, if he had to wager on it, he’d say it was coming from the foot of his bed… The floor perhaps?

Dark brows furrowing, Hadrian sat up, letting the sheet and furs fall into his lap while he craned to take a look. At once he recognized the shapely phantom of his dreams, curled up on the floor of his solar. He’d heard she’d been sleeping in barns or some such, but he assumed that was because she had no choice, not because she’d taken to it. With her eyes shut like that, she looked to be sleeping restfully, yet somehow she did not seem at peace. He might have said that was because she couldn’t possibly be comfortable down there, on the cold, hard ground donned practically nothing at all, but that dexterous body of hers appeared suited for anywhere she might choose to lie. Still, she looked perturbed now, and that only left him more confused over the situation. But at least it was better to find your bride to be at the foot of your bed rather than a cut throat.

Hadrian allowed himself to fall back into bed, his head hitting the pillows with another sigh, this one sounding like a mix of annoyance and relief. “Something wrong with the bed I gave you?” He called out to his uninvited guest, his voice deep and groggy with sleep. “Or the room, for that matter?” He didn’t sound chastising over the visit though. In fact, he seemed entirely indifferent, and all together more interested of resting his eyes. Silently, he cursed the architect who’d given this room such large, East facing windows. There was hardly a cloud in the sky this morning, with the glaring sunbeams making it difficult to drift back into slumber. But the longer Arielle remained, the more he began to realize something was bothering her.

Once again, Hadrian sat up, his bare, muscular chest exposed to the chill of the air while the rest of his profile remained concealed beneath the coverings. The king’s green eyes held a touch of concern and uncertainty as they fell upon her, wondering at the true nature of this unexpected visit. “What is it?” he asked, being far too perceptive to brush off her dour behavior as inconsequential; especially after the way she acted the night before. Flirty temptress that she was, Hadrian had a hard time believing she would have chosen to take up the floor over his bed if something wasn’t wrong. “Having trouble sleeping in the den of wolves?” he suggested. He himself would certainly be hesitant if it came down to sleeping in a castle full of those who’d love to see his head roll.

Whatever the reasons for her intrusion, Hadrian was fully awake now, and so he reluctantly pulled himself out of bed. Confident and brazen, he remained heedless of his state of undress as he crossed the solar towards the ornate wardrobe on the other side of the room. They were to be married, after all, no reason to be shy. And there was nothing to be ashamed of either, for the king was possessed of a strong, well trimmed body, crafted through years of swordsmanship, riding, and all the other activities demanded of his royal status. Such exposure was short lived, however, as he retrieved a long cloak from the wardrobe and promptly covered himself while listening to Arielle’s explanation for the peculiar state in which he found her.
 

alexandra1405

Mischief from Down Under
Joined
Dec 7, 2018
Like a cat stretching out in a ray of sunshine after having fallen asleep beneath the golden warmth, Arielle slowly rolled to her back and stretched long, nimble legs out straight and yawned quietly. There was something particularly feline about the movement, the way her arms came up above head and stretched towards the wall away from her pointed bare toes. Eyes were slow to blink open, the mismatched colours seemingly dim with discontent. While her unease might have been plain about her, it took a great deal of perception on Hadrian’s behalf for him to notice such a thing simply from having gazed down upon on her as she laid across the floor at the end of his bed. The mustard silk of her shirt dragged over the milky flesh of her thighs, almost exposing their entirety but unveiling the bronze freckles that decorated the tops of her legs just beneath flared hips. Arielle said nothing at first, simply taking in the ache that had settled into her joints and bones from the very little rest she was able to steal after dawn. Hadrian’s presence had been more comforting than the fire within the previous room, tempting her towards sleep despite her fear of what awaited her there. When she finally had slipped back into slumber, there were no dreams nor visions that awaited her.

The deep tone of Hadrian’s voice was enough to have her rolling over onto her side and running a set of fingers through the length of copper hair to untangle curls; snagging a couple of knots and tugging through them. How was it that he always seemed to indifferent or partial, but there was always a gleam to his eye that told her he cared more than he was letting on? Arielle would quite have happily taken the scold should the king have decided it fitting to ridicule her for her decision to find herself on the floor rather than within the perfectly good bed he’d offered her, or even his own that she’d easily have been able to slip within. The tip of a pink tongue ran the seam of plump lips, leaving behind a sheen that caught the bright light of the morning sun that filtered in through the eastern windows.

“I would have thought my presence so early in the morning would have been something you’d have enjoyed,” Arielle mused more so to herself, though her voice was clear enough for the king to hear her words. “Besides, I would have thought that you’d have realised by now that I have an awful habit of inviting myself places where I shouldn’t be and your chambers were just too good of a challenge to pass up, Hadrian. Especially when you’re sleeping so peacefully as you had been. Do you know that you snore softly? I think you might have even said my name.....” There was a sharp edge of wickedness to her voice, a teasing lilt as always, as Arielle spoke in half truths and tempted a reaction from Hadrian. “Or did you moan it?” Arielle grinned up at the ceiling, bicolored eyes fluttering closed gently as lashes brushed over the tops of high cheekbones. Pushing herself up to sit, Arielle peered over the foot of the bed and over thick blankets and sheets at the man tangled within; seemingly exasperated with not being able to have a moment without her. “I can’t remember the sound you made, you might have might have to moan my name again, Hadrian, to jog my memory. It’s certainly something I don’t ever want to forget.”

Long legs stretched, the bare of her feet finding the floor to push her to stand for only several moments, before Arielle settles herself down upon a far corner of his rather large bed. Quite large for only one, all things considered, though wide enough that he could crucifix out his arms and stretch legs and sleep comfortably. But who on earth slept like that? That was just asking for trouble. Arielle was quick to recline again, tilting to the side and settling down as she curled legs toward her chest and tucked a hand between her knees in search of warmth. The air was chilled, now that she’d moved from her patch of sun on the floor, and it rose goosebumps along her arms. An elbow dug into the blankets, the palm of her hand pressing into temple as she keeps herself semi-upright in a lean into her hand. Those eyes never leave Hadrian’s face, as if it were impossible that they could be coaxed to look elsewhere, though there was nothing uncomfortable about her gaze. Mustard silk shirt spills from the round flare of her hips with the angle, pooling about the narrow of her waist and gaping open at the deep valley of cleavage just a fraction more than she should have allowed it. Yet, Arielle was neither a creature of modesty nor a prude and would likely strut around Hadrian’s chambers in a state far less undressed than this if only to capture his attention. So now, it didn’t bother her in the slightest that the milky length of her legs and the black underwear that bordered on being a thong were completely on show.

“There was nothing wrong with the room, nor the bed, that you had prepared for me, Hadrian,” Arielle spoke earnestly, running the tip of pink tongue across the seam of her lips only to leave behind a glistening shimmer. “But when one sleeps atop hard surfaces for so long, one’s body learns to adjusts and finds something as comfortable as a bed quite unnerving. Perhaps that’s even explanation for the dream I was gifted last night.”

Blue and green eyes watch him dutifully, as if Arielle was convinced that either something terrible would happen should she look elsewhere or that he simply would cease to exist. Hadrian was, and had been, an elusive man to imagine and Arielle had found it difficult to come to terms that the young boy had grown into a young man and then into a king; with the roundness of features from childhood having been carved into sharp lines and angles.

“I couldn’t sleep,” she admitted in a rather unusually small voice as Arielle watched the king slip from the bed and move towards the wardrobe. Lean muscle rippled beneath olive skin, highlighted by the morning sun that made Hadrian glow golden. He’d been handsome in the throne room, cast in shadow and darkness, but standing within a beam of the sun made him extraordinary. Arielle rolled over, tracking him with her eyes and keen attention as she admired the ripple of lean muscle and chiselled back. “It has been some time since I have been gifted a Waking. I certainly do not miss them, nor wish for them again. But last night was undoubtedly one, and not a pleasant one at that.”

How was Arielle to say that what she had seen was a foretelling of what she believed to be the kingdom’s future should they fail, never mind the words that inky beast had spoke to her? Arielle remained silent for a little while longer as she watched the man before her shrug on a cloak and conceal the well muscled lines of his sculpted back in a rather disappointing manner. Hadrian was the kind of man that was carved from marble and hard work, yet maintained that regal air about him that commanded respect, even from she. With a huff through parted lips to blow aside a lock of wispy red hair, Arielle wriggled backwards into the centre as she sought the remnants of his body heat.

“I had a Waking last night,” Arielle called to him bluntly. Her heritage was not unknown to him, neither was the fact that her mother was a rather skilled gypsy prior to her early death years into Arielle’s young childhood. Hadrian might not have been from her people, or her kind, but he knew enough about the people that roamed the northern border of his arid lands to know what she spoke of; even if it were only a little. “I’m sure of it. I haven’t had one in years, since the death of my father, but I know what I saw and I know what I felt and it was a Waking.”

Blue and green eyes fell away from the features of Hadrian’s sloped shoulders and sculpted back as she began to do up the buttons closest to her navel; as if she were keenly aware of how provocative her state of attire was and actually cared. Tendrils of red curls fell about her face and over her shoulders, tumbling like wisps of fire that licked against the milky white of her collar bones that were painted gently with bronze freckles. She sat in the centre of Hadrian’s bed, not looking a bit out of place and as if she belonged right there, upon where the king had been resting and left residual body heat. If Hadrian watched her movements over the past couple of days, he’d realise that every one of her motions was towards the body heat that ebbed from him like smoulder.

“I know that you likely believe very little in them, and that your people hold no importance in them and think them bogus,” Arielle continued, her tone still as sure as it had been the night before as her gaze slowly rose to eye him, something dark and perturbed lingering there. “But I know what I saw and I know what I felt. I won’t describe it to you, Hadrian, because I know it likely will only make it harder for you to believe me, but something awful awaits us if we are not careful.” Her hands fall away to settle limply in her lap as Arielle pulls his pillow from behind her and atop her thighs; like a young girl would hold her bear. “The men that you call council are not as trustworthy as you may believe. The best place for an evil spirit to hide is within enemy lines, is it not? Or did I not prove that point to you? I know that you do not trust me, Hadrian, and I have given you no reason to....” the bed creaked with her weight as Arielle slipped from upon it, her feet silent as she padded over behind Hadrian and gently touched his arm with the smooth of her palm. “You may not ever trust me, and I will live knowing and accepting that. But you must be careful as to who you believe you can trust within your council, Hadrian.”

With a milky hand running the length of his arm to find his hand, her fingers curling about the meat of his thumb only to squeeze tightly for several moments to release, Arielle stood before Hadrian like a woman pleading before she moved between he and his wardrobe. The hand that had kneaded the flesh of his thumb was slow to press over the space of his heart, but fingers splayed and her touch lingered as she tilted her head back to look up into his face. “I’m sorry that I came uninvited, and disturbed your sleep, but the Waking gifted me a view of what this kingdom may look like should we fail and I was frightened that it was waiting for me should I try to sleep again afterwards.” Arielle was all too aware of what very little space there was between them; the heat from their bodies mixing into something smouldering that made her toes curl. “We need to make this work, Hadrian, even if I have to bend over backwards to earn your trust, I will do it. What I saw last night is something I don’t ever want to see again, least of all become a reality. I swear to you....” the hand above his heart smoothed slowly over the expanse of pectoral, “....I will make this work and I will make you believe in me. Just....please be careful with who you trust from now on.”

The darkness to Arielle’s bicolored eyes became clear in the light and how close she stood to him, only an inch or two apart as she craned her neck to look up into the sharp angled features of Hadrian’s face. Concern. Deep-rooted, soul-gripping concern for the man that stood before her. “Promise me, Hadrian, that if my gut tells me something that you will at least give me a chance to plead with you.” Blunt teeth sank into the fat of bottom lip. “Even if you don’t trust me, will you please trust my gut?”

How could she tell him that one of his own was a traitor when she had absolutely no proof other than some transforming, inky beast that came to her amidst a Waking?

The concern in Arielle’s eyes was unable to be ignored, and now it tinged her words as she quietly murmured. “Please, Hadrian.”
 
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Fates.Gamble

Revendeur de Destin
Joined
Oct 11, 2012
Location
Somewhere out there...
Hadrian’s soft lips pulled into a smirk as Arielle went right back into teasing him. Ever so nonchalant, even when he knew there was a problem. She’d already given that much away. Why else would she come here? If she just wanted to play tricks or show him how easily she could have crept in, she wouldn’t have stopped short at the foot of his bed. She would have shown him exactly just how close she could have gotten. Arielle wasn’t the sort of woman to take half measures, or he would have ended this war years ago.His uninvited guest, however, seemed intent to play it off even after the game had been won.And still she found a way to sting back, claiming her name had been on his lips throughout the night. It very well could have been given those heated dreams… But Hadrian didn’t let it show, his cocky smirk remaining as he fired right back.

“Well perhaps you might have heard it a little more clearly had to been bold enough to come warm my bed, instead of taking to the floor like a house pet. Maybe then you might have heard me moan a great many things you’d never forget.”

His own taunt had an unfortunate misfire once he turned about and drank in that devilishly pleasing appearance of hers. Apparently those pants were so obedient he need not take them off at all, they just disappeared all on their own. He could only approve of the long, smooth legs left in their wake. They looked particularly inviting now, with just a touch of golden light spilling across while she took up residence in his bed. He watched her hand come down to tuck between them, as though she were cold, and Hadrian thought he might be able to provide her with all the warmth she could possibly need. He seriously contemplated extending the offer upon taking in the rest of her scantily clad body. Yet, like a law of nature, he was inevitably drawn into the beautiful mystique of her eyes. It was impossible not to be hooked by that mystifying, bi-colored gaze.

Her explanation helped distract his mind from present course, thankfully. No sense being rash about this. In time, once they were married, he could have her all he wanted. But until things were certain; until things were official, he had to avoid making reckless decisions. There was enough complication to his life without risking some bastard son of a king, reared by his usurper of a mother. Maybe that was what she hoped would happen…

But Hadrian dismissed that idea quick enough. It was all it took, once he realized those were exactly the sort of lines his father thought along. He’d seen first hand how such paranoia and skepticism could ruin a man, as well as his country. The paranoia was easy enough to ignore, but a bit of a skepticism remained once Arielle suggested it was bad dreams that chased her here. Or not dreams, but ‘Wakings’ as he came to understand.

He was familiar with them, or rather the stories about them, at least. Those free spirited peoples of the far north made for no lack of tall tales and myths. Having never had one of those visions himself, it was hard to put much stock in that sort of thing. Hadrian was a practical man. He would believe in anything you could prove was real. Everything else was just guess work. Needless to say, it was hard to take this as anything other than a nightmare. But apparently one bad enough to scare her off into the king’s chambers. Well they weren’t children scurrying about the castle anymore. They were grown adults, and it was high time they acted like it. He wouldn’t give voice to that callous thought, though. At least not now. But his disinterest was obvious. He only half listened, stretching his neck this way and that, trying to work out a kink the lack of sleep had built up. Besides, how could he take her in earnest when she wouldn’t even describe this ‘Waking’ to him?


He exhaled a sigh of impatience, but gave her his full attention again when she turned the matter towards his council. Was she trying to twist him against his own men? Is that what this was about? His green eyes narrowed with just a touch of suspicion, but in this, she was speaking sense. Little did she know his mind was running that direction for some time now. The men of his council were smart and careful. They knew how to play the political game very well, but in the end they were, for the most part, loyal to his father’s aims. And, despite a striking resemblance, Hadrian was not his father, and his ideals caused no shortage of discontent among those involved with governing his province.

“Proven it to me?” He had to scoff over her idea of a perfect place to hide. “Have you forgotten how easily I found you? You were dragged before me just yesterday. You’re fortunate I was more interested in your hand than your head.”

Yet for all his doubts, Arielle’s concern appeared to be genuine. That coy demeanor of hers had all but taken flight. He found himself uncertain what to think, and remained disconcerted as she pulled herself out of bed and joined him. She carried herself so swift and silent with those bare feet, as though she took no notice of the frigid tile beneath them. Like the night before, she reached for his hand. Her gentle touch sent a flurry of goosebumps across the skin hidden beneath his cloak. Hadrian stood perfectly still while her hand traveled to his chest, pressing against his heart as she looked up at him, almost pleadingly. It was hard not to sympathize with the way she wielded those eyes, so full of seemingly genuine worry. But could he really trust in that? Could he truly believe the woman who’d been trying to destroy him for years now, cared whether or not something came along to destroy him now?

Perhaps it was the intoxicating feeling he had over being so near her; or how the warmth of her body seeped into him, or the way her sweet aroma clouded his mind with every breath; or maybe it was just that hopeless, concerned look on her face; an expression which betrayed no traces of dishonesty or malcontent… Whatever it was, somewhere along the way he began to take seriously. But what to tell her? Hadrian greatly preferred to keep his cards close to his chest. The less people that knew of his intentions, the better. Speaking of these things was dangerous, but now that he was involving Arielle in this game of cat and mouse, perhaps not speaking of them could prove just as hazardous.

“You have my word that I will listen to any of your concerns and give them ample consideration,” Hadrian assured at the end of her plea. “But, Waking Dreams aside, it sounds like you’re just speaking logic to me.” It was far too early in the morning to contemplate if her visions were real or the fanciful reveries he assumed, so he wasn’t going to try. “It’s no secret ruin awaits us should this fall through. But you don’t truly believe I would trust blindly in my council, do you?”

Hadrian smiled, lifting a hand to retrieve her own from its spot upon his chest. “You know me far better than that,” He went on, the soft pad of his thumb brushing lithely across her fingers. “There’s one or two men I know I can trust, but most of them were my father’s men long before they were mine. I see their frustration and discontent with every step I take that leads them further away from the kingdom he envisioned. If I’m to be honest, this union between us is as much an attempt to ferret out the disloyal as it is to bring an end to our bickering.”

“I’ve already got a plan in motion. In fact…” Hadrian paused, releasing his hand and reaching for her sides instead. He took her in a soft but firm grip, tugging her a little closer until she was pressed against his sculpted torso. His deceptive smile broadened to a mischievous grin as he looked down at her. “Maybe this would be a good opportunity to see how well he work together.” Hands roamed as he considered the situation, slipping around to the small of Arielle’s back while he contentedly held her there, wondering how he might use her, and whether or not he should really be trusting her opinions on this at all. She’d been here one night where as Hadrian had known these men for years. But he had to admit, one more pair of eyes couldn’t hurt.

“You’re good at keeping quiet,” he said, his voice low and husky as if to emphasize the point. “And pretty damn good at sneaking around, too. You always have been. You made it all it all the way to that kitchen last night, after all. And even into my chambers after that. I bet that means you’re good at seeing things other people don’t as well, aren’t you?” The king seemed somewhat interested in seeing a few things himself. His gaze fell away from her eyes, venturing down her body while his fingers managed to find the hem of her shirt. They curled around the garment and began to lift it; just enough to expose the milky flesh of her hips along with the meager, black, article that did its best to cover up the rest. He let the shirt fall back into place not a moment later, with his warm hands slipping beneath to play across the bare, flesh of her back now, uninhibited.

“I’m going to announce our plans for marriage to the council this afternoon,” he continued to say, sounding oh so serious for how roguish his touch was becoming. “I don’t expect it will gain a warm reception from most…” They certainly wouldn’t receive her as warmly as Hadrian was right now. His hands worked their way down, daring to grip the ample flesh of her ass as he leaned in close. He almost seemed to come in for a kiss, but his supple lips purposely missed hers, playing her at her own game from last night. They brushed across her cheek instead, coming to stop a breath away from her ear.

“I want you to be there when I do,” he told her softly. “Take your measure of it. See how they react and let me know what your ‘gut’ tells you. Maybe you’ll see something I haven’t. But if you’re going to join me at a council meeting, you’re going to need to find something far more appropriate than this to wear.” As much as he liked it, it simply wouldn’t do for such an event.
 

alexandra1405

Mischief from Down Under
Joined
Dec 7, 2018
“I wouldn’t go about tempting me, Hadrian. Unlike yourself, I care not for waiting until after some drawn out ceremony. Seems like a rather poor way of attempting to avoid the inevitable, with all things considered, don’t you think?” The pink tip of tongue slowly ran the seam of her lips, a purposefully long sweep from corner to corner with the sun of drawing his attention and gaze to the supple flesh of her parted lips. “I’ll take that as an invitation for next time then. The next time I’m woken from slumber with the view of a world drowned in blood and acid rain, I won’t find myself a place at the foot of your bed like a good little pet, but rather I’ll slip beneath the sheets beside you. I can’t promise that I will do much sleeping at all, either. I have a feeling that I’ll be....distracted.” Milky hands were held up between them, the backs of her palms flecked with that same bronze. “These hands have a tendency to wander, though I’m sure that comes as no surprise to you. Nor do you seem to mind.”

Her wit may have been sharp, and her retort just as quick, but Arielle’s body would prove itself to be her enemy. A warm blush crept over the otherwise milky smooth of her cheeks, even the tip of her freckled nose; a gentle and rather attractive shade of soft rose. Bare toes curled against the cool floor, and not in an attempt to stave the chill from the smooth surface. If Hadrian paid particular attention to her, right in this moment, he’d have noticed the slight parting of her lips as she took a small intake of breath down into the bottoms of her lungs. Her heart warmed, settling against her ribs as it began to thunder. Arielle could do her best to focus and quieten her breathing, but it would be a poor effort; they came quickly, almost in soft gasps that were just barely audible. The one thing Hadrian wouldn’t be able to notice or see was the liquid warmth that pooled in the depths of her belly, the space between flared hips that felt as though it were filled with heated lava. She could imagine Hadrian whispering her name with the sweet tinge of euphoria, let alone the deep of his voice darkening into a toe-curling moan. But did the sound she imagined in her head sound anything at all like the real thing? The supple flesh of her bottom lip was caught between teeth, bitten hard enough that she almost drew blood.

“Funny, don’t you think?” Arielle mused aloud, tilting her face upwards to be able to look into those stormy blue eyes. “That I have so quickly gone from wanting to end you and your name to now wishing to hear my own moaned so crudely from your lips. Perhaps all that was necessary for the war to end was for me to see you, perhaps even a quick fuck before I was sent on my way.” Her smile was as wicked as ever as her imagination began to run wild with images. “Imagine how quickly this war would have come to an end if it could have been settled by the pleasures of the flesh. What have we been doing this whole time, Hadrian?”

The playfulness in her voice, however, quickly dissipates as she reads Hadrian’s face like a book. She could see it clearly written across his handsome features and settled within that stark blue of his eyes. Blatant disinterest. Arielle’s copper brows drew together in a slight frown of offence. She supposed that a man like him wouldn’t put much thought in a thing such as a Waking, never mind put faith in one when it was spoken of by her. Hadrian was a man of logic and proof and science, he was not the kind of man to believe in something intangible. She could be speaking of any other dream as far as he seemed concerned, though she weren’t. There was a stark difference between a dream one’s own mind created, and a vision that is gifted from an external force. It leaves a bitter taste on one’s tongue, never mind the residual throb in both temples after having suffered the onslaught of forced images amidst once peaceful sleep. The existence of a Waking was not something that Arielle could prove, nor should she have to, and she couldn’t help but feel a little sour standing before a man who didn’t believe her. Had she been home, among her mother’s people, or even her father’s, whomever she chose to spoke to would have listened whole heartedly and with interest, not just brushed her off. For Arielle, Hadrian’s disinterest in what she spoke of and alluded to was as if he were brushing off her existence of soul. She was offended to say the least.

Misht himarats’nelov t’agavorin. Shnch’vogh k’aos yev paterazm.” Arielle spoke in her mother’s tongue, the language of the free and wild people whom danced the northern border between this kingdom and the uncivilised wilderness. The frown deepened just a fraction, a darkness settling into the blue and green of her eyes as she looked up into Hadrian’s face with a particular boldness. “The man with the serpent tongue shall be your downfall. Beware the silver man who claims patriotism.” Arms crossed underneath her bust, a copper brow arching. “Does that mean anything to you?” It could mean a lot of things, or a lot of nothings. Arielle knew nothing of Hadrian’s council, and therefore had absolutely nothing to go off. She’d pondered whether the ‘serpent tongue’ was simply a reference to a man who spoke slyly and spat lies, or whether it could be an allusion to a man of a house with a crest of a serpent. But the silver man? Was he the same man as the serpent tongue, or was he yet another they needed to watch for? Arielle knew she’d likely learn nothing from the riddle until she met the men of the council.

“Yes,” Arielle grumbled, her tone a fraction sour, “I am lucky you wished my hand rather than my head when I lead you to me. I had plans, you know, and you fell straight into them, only you blindsided me with a deal I could not ignore. Perhaps it is you whom was fortunate that I am forward thinking enough to have considered your proposition.”

Lips press together in a thin line as the woman before him seemed to take a breath in order to centre her mind. Hadrian had a rather annoying and bothersome habit of grinding her gears and getting on her nerves. Did he feel this way whenever she taunted him? Frustrated? Vexed? Bi-coloured eyes gently closed for a moment as she took another breath and reminded herself that Hadrian would not make her crack. When they opened, he offered her a smile after speaking of her talking logic. “Perhaps,” she suggested softly, “but, then again, you did not see the kind of horrors that await us. It is worse than I could have thought. I wish there was some way that I could show you what I saw, if only so you believe me and don’t think me a liar.”

Whatever attempt she had made to calm the ebbing anger that had begun to grow at his disinterest in what concerned her, was a poor attempt in comparison to the effect of the warm hand that clasped her own and pulled it away from over his heart. Fingers were rough and calloused from swordsmanship, not heavy labour, his palm so much larger than her own that she was certain he’d be easily able to clasp her throat entirely in one hand should he wish it. The fire in her heart settled a fraction, consumed, suddenly, by his touch and that wicked look in Hadrian’s eye. A plan of his own? Well, isn’t he a schemer.

The very same hands settle against the curve of her waist, gripping at the supple flesh that is barely concealed by the silk of her shirt. Whatever her heart had been doing prior, it stilled for a moment and then leapt into her throat. This wasn’t how she wanted the game to be played. She was supposed to be keeping him on his toes, not the other way around, and he certainly should not have been making her belly warm the way he did. How could she be angry at him for brushing her off when she was suddenly consumed by him, all of her sense overwhelmed? The masculine musk and scent of sandalwood tickled her nose as he pulled her flush against him, no space between them allowed any longer. Her skin was keenly aware of where they touched; the curve of her waist just above the flare of her hips, the smooth plane of her stomach that pressed into the lower space of his hardened abdomen, the pillow of her breasts against his chest just beneath the space of his heart. Her skin tingled, more than she cared to admit, and she found her feet shuffling closer to stand between his own in acceptance of her new position against him.

Arielle wouldn’t lie and say she wasn’t already addicted to the heat of him, and it didn’t take a keen observer to note such a thing either. Her hands slipped between them, the smooth of her palms pressing against the cut muscle between his hips and her fingers splaying up towards the expanse of stomach, though she made no move to push him away to give herself space. Space wasn’t something she wanted right now, or even something she considered. In fact, she could think of very little right now at all as her gaze was drawn down to the line of his mouth as he continued to speak in what seemed like a foreign language.

“You know that I can’t think properly at all when you’re holding me like this, don’t you?” She mused slyly, a copper brow rising elegantly as her eyes peeled away from his lips for a moment to look into those stormy blues. “Is this part of your plan, too? See if Arielle will become some begging, hot mess?” Her weight shifted, rising onto the tips of her toes to give her enough height that she was able to nip at the edge of his jaw with blunt teeth. “Because you’re halfway there.” Settling back down on the balls of her feet, the smile that pulled at her lips was something both wicked and dazed, like a doe caught in a torchlight and stunned.

Arielle opened her mouth to retort on just how well she was good at keeping quiet, but a soft gasp escaped her as the heat of Hadrian’s hand pressed against the small of her back. The warmth rose goosebumps beneath his palm, a shiver running the length of her spine only to make her press tighter against him with the motion. There was no other way to describe his touch, other than Arielle having been living in ice and snow to finally bask in the midday, summer sun. It was a warmth that reached her soul, something indescribable and something she certainly shouldn’t be feeling with him. Surely....

“I am,” Arielle admitted after a little while, having to take a moment to find her words and steel herself against his wondering touch. There was a sharp sound, almost a scoff, as she added, “If any” in reference to a warm reception. She doubted any at all would be keen on the idea. Hadrian was growing bold, even more so as he gripped the supple flesh of her ass, spilling between fingers. Head fell to the side as warm breath tickled the side of her face as he whispered huskily into her ear. Hadrian was weaving a spell she didn’t think him able; one that she hadn’t expected to be cast with such ease. “Bloody hell.....” she mewed softly, barely audible as the length of her elegant neck was exposed to him for Hadrian to do as he pleased. She shivered against him, one hand smoothing up between them to find the roped muscle of his bicep, her fingers squeezing.

Aw,” Arielle purred, looking up at Hadrian from the corner of her eyes as she keeps her neck exposed to him, seemingly in submission. “But you seem to have taken a liking to my state of undress this morning. Or do you simply not wish to share the vision of me in barely anything with the men of your council? Now, now, dear Hadrian,” Arielle patted his chest twice before hand moved to cup the side of his face as she straightened once more, “jealousy doesn’t become you.” There was no need to Arielle to grin, instead the glimmer already reached her eyes as she arched her spine. The supple flesh of her breasts pillowed against his chest, with little room between them some of their weight spills out sideways, while the round of her ass is pressed further into the meat of his palms. “Do not worry, my King, I have just the thing in mind.”
 
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