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Fantasy ♡ need you like a heartbeat. (starboob & ellarose.)

Sub Genres
  1. Magical
  2. Romance


"Ah, I see. Wilco must be very skilled." Juliet observes with a head tilt, envisioning the 'dough nuts'. Initially her mind paints them as roasted nuts covered in dough and she finds herself intrigued by Willow James's explanation of what they are actually supposed to be. (Then she becomes rather distracted, gazing at the strawberry that the sorceress sets aside on her plate as she samples the frosting from her flaming red cake. Is she going to eat it? The archer fights to resist the urge to steal it when her companion isn't looking.) Ah. The smile means she likes the cake, yes? That means she has good taste.

Anyway, she does understand that 'dollars' are the currency used on the Other Side. Juliet supposes that this is a fair price if Willow James is so enthusiastic about them. There is also relief alongside this revelation, knowing what she said of her family and knowing that she can afford to eat a dessert that she enjoys so much. (Then again, Willow James does not strike her as the sort of person who has ever had to punch anyone in the face in order to secure a meal.) Once again, the archer imagines the fried rings of dough that she speaks of. They must be delicious. Will she ever get to try one? She has never entertained the concept of exploring the Other Side before... well, not since she was a child anyway. Meeting Willow James puts the thought in her head. Especially when they speak of desserts like this. "The most delicious desserts in Amoria come from the market square. There are flaky devilfish rings... those are nice. Not to be mistaken with the flaky rings of death at Dimitri's stall." Her face twists in a mildly offended expression just thinking of the flaky rings of death (and Dimitri) and quickly cleanses her metaphorical palette by thinking of other things-- like the chocolate coated fruits on sticks. The nobles who attended the gathering that evening would never trust food from the square and they are missing out for it. The art is in observing carefully and knowing which stalls to avoid.

Juliet presses her lips inward, tasting the remnants of something sweet on them. It's all this talk of food. She thinks of various different ways to approach the subject of the strawberry on Willow James's plate. However, the topic of breaking noses stops her before she can find the words, let alone work up the nerve to say anything at all. When it comes to breaking noses, though, it doesn't take very long for her to answer to that question in contrast. "Yes. I have broken many noses." Is her automatic, straightforward answer. Although most were not over petty squabbles with other ladies such as with Lavinia. Rather she acted in self defense or out of necessity in order to survive. Listening to the sorceress speak of what she knows of her own skills (or lack thereof when it comes to breaking noses) and how she wants to do better is admirable. She is honest. The path she's choosing is not an easy one (especially when noting her jumpiness and the way she curled into a tiny ball upon meeting an ogre) but her earnest resolve to try is still worth something. (Earnest enough that it distracts her from the strawberry... briefly.)

"There is a time and place for breaking noses. As fast as you might learn, you will not learn fast enough in Amoria." Juliet supplies. The first half of the wisdom she imparts is something her mother once told her while the second half sounds more like something Lara might say. (Her mother insisted that she would not need to break any more noses so long as she lived safely in the kingdom of Amoria... but she couldn't have been more wrong about that. Monsters exist in every social class. Some are simply better at hiding it is all. Juliet has made a living of exposing such monsters who walk among them. The liars and the dirty, dirty cheats of the world.) Even so, this is not an outright refusal or even an attempt to express some close-minded belief that Willow James will never be capable of breaking anyone's nose. It's a statement coming from someone who has experience attempting to use her dolls for target practice as a child after living on the streets of Athana and in the wood. It's just not the same. "Er... because there are not many consenting individuals here. If you truly wish to learn then I would be best equipped to teach you in the wood."

That is how Lara taught her. That is what she knows. (There is nothing more than that.) Juliet bites her lip and snuffs out flickers of thoughts that don't matter. It's indisputable that all of Amoria would agree that the archer is too busy handling the recent spike in afflictions to teach someone to fight within the kingdom. If Willow is to accompany her as her partner, then the lessons would be best learned 'on the job'. (If she brings this up with princess Elise then she might be sent to train with the guards until she is ready... and she would not subject Willow James to their lot.) It is best if she learns from her if they really are to work together.

"I suppose there are a few things I can teach you before we venture out that far, though. Such as how to deliver a punch without breaking your thumb." Juliet makes a proper fist where her thumb is visible and then an improper one where she holds it within her fingers indicatively... and then that same hand moves like lightning to snatch the uneaten strawberry from Willow's plate. (Heavens. It is just sitting there. And if it continues to sit there she will think of nothing else. As a rule, Juliet always eats the strawberry first to ensure that no one can steal it from her.) She coughs awkwardly. "I will do so in return for this strawberry."

Juliet hurries ahead as her cheeks blush as pink as the strawberry. (Ah. Was that too bold of her?) However, it seems that she is right to hasten her pace because she overhears nearby fragments of conversation along with the sound of her name. She does not want to linger long enough to know what they are saying about her-- let alone long enough for them to discover her. The archer manages to scarf down the whole entire strawberry before whispering a warning to Willow James. "This way. Hurry."

They turn another corner, into the hall where the plush, velvety carpet sinks satisfyingly beneath her feet and quiets their footsteps. Juliet finally stops before yet another staircase. Rather than approach it as if she is going to ascend it, however, she approaches a statue of a mermaid on a nearby pedestal instead and tugs on its hooped earring. The staircase then parts in the middle with a soft rumble, revealing a secret passageway within.

It's dark inside the hidden hall until Juliet touches a plate on the side of the wall. With a 'whoosh', lanterns lined all the way down the passageway ignite with golden flames that dance like pixies. The archer never indicates whether she is leading them somewhere specific or if this is simply a route she is taking to escape notice. Instead, she thinks back to what Willow James had to say about her contributions.

"Strategy is important, too." Juliet points out quietly as they walk, thinking back to the sorceress's comment about wanting to 'actually do something'. (She is not sure why she is incentivized to something about this... it's more of a feeling. And like most feelings, she intends to pointedly ignore it.) "It sounded like you worked very hard before coming here."

That's when they finally make it there. The music room. The main attraction is undoubtedly the grand piano sitting near the bay window, with edges that seem to sparkle and shine. In certain places the wood is carved in intricate patterns like lace and flower garlands are wrapped around the legs and draped over the top. (There are similarly beautiful instruments sitting together on a small platform.) It does not look like an auditorium meant for large performances-- but rather a parlor explicitly purposed for gatherings among close friends. While it is intricate and exquisitely designed, a lot like the rest of the palace, there has always been something inherently cozy about the music room. At least that is the case to Juliet. Maybe it's the smaller size, or the memories of the music she used to doze off listening to as she rested on the sofa in the corner. The summer days she snuck away to play the piano (badly) when no one else was present. Along with learning to read, Juliet came to appreciate the piano lessons she received as a child with time. In fact, learning to play her first song almost matched the happiness she felt hitting her first bullseye.

While part of Juliet longs to approach the piano and touch the keys, she resists the pull. (It has been a very long time.) Her brown eyes flicker over to Willow James instead. "Do you play any instruments?"


lover / leaver
Were Willow James not trying to pretend that she is not huffing and puffing her way through the castle, struggling to keep with Juliet’s pace, she might have corrected her that Wilco isn’t a person. (She doesn’t think, at least.) Instead, she can only smile to herself and wonder what kind of donut Juliet might enjoy and it pains her that she doesn’t know enough about the other woman to know this for sure. (In the back of her mind she imagines some distant future with herself and Juliet. One where they live together somewhere cozy and warm. On Sunday mornings Willow will wake up extra early to pick up a dozen of her lover’s favorite donuts. She’ll buy them with the intent of making them last at least until Monday, but she knows neither of them will have the self-control to let them see noon. That’s a bit silly as she doesn’t see why she would ever buy a dozen donuts for two people, but it’s a fun daydream and one she might find lulling her into slumber later on.) Though the topic of donuts is short lived as the archer starts speaking of the stalls in the market. It reminds her of the “grease trucks” that would hang around her college campus, waiting for hungry students to wander by after classes, smell the salty-oily air, and be pulled in with watering mouths and open wallets.

Then Willow quiets some as the conversation moves back to fighting. Not just because they are moving through a castle and she is having trouble taking everything in, following along with Juliet, and keep up their conversation. No, the sorceress quiets when the archer tells her that she will never learn fast enough. Her stomach drops hearing that and interpreting it as Juliet’s lack of faith in her fated partner. She doesn’t necessarily blame her. Not after the wood. She knows who she is and she is Willow James, the girl who can’t handle even a tap on her shoulder without jumping three feet out of her pants. ‘This was naïve.’ Though she’s always known that and for some reason… That just did not stop her. Probably because she knew that without her, no one else would do something. (Not even Sawyer had been interested––well, she had been, but she had also been doubtful they’d even be able to find a gateway successfully and she also worried about falling behind with her transcripts.) It was her first brave step, she can acknowledge that, and yet there are miles still in front of her. 'So what? Didn't you just say that every champion has to start somewhere? Don't quit before you've even started.' She thinks for a second that she might just do this to prove everyone wrong, but then she decides against that. She wants to do this to prove herself wrong, because maybe Willow James can be a name that actually means something more than being the kid with a dad who––

“Wha––?” The sorceress’s face turns into a question mark when Juliet agrees to teach her. She had not been expecting that, admittedly. Not after what the archer said, but it turns out that Willow James may have jumped to her conclusions much too soon. ‘She’s your person, of course she won’t give up on you.’ Before she lets herself get too caught up in her thoughts, she pays close attention to this first lesson. ...That she does already know, thanks to Leif’s obsession with kung fu and karate movies and having been forced to sit through several. Even so she appreciates the lesson as she knows it is the first of many and that is rather exciting. (Already her brain supplies her with a fantasy of sparring with Juliet. A fantasy that ends with one of them pinned to the ground and, wow, it’s getting hot in here? Probably just the running, haha.)

Needless to say, she totally misses when the other woman swipes the strawberry from her plate. Not until it’s brought to her attention and when she is aware? She can only breathe out a laugh. See, Willow James always planned to give the strawberry to Juliet August. That is why she set it to the side. (Well, also because the best berries grow at the Rhode Island house and she doesn't want Amoria to disappoint her. Assuming they make it over to Elsewhere, she can't wait for Juliet to taste real strawberries from her grandmothers' property––if they make it before the season ends, of course.) If she were going to be upset about it, it would just be over the fact that she didn't get her chance to be charming about it. "You are funny, Juliet August. That strawberry was always for you," she pops another cream puff in her mouth, "I saw you eat the strawberries first on your flaming red cakes." (It's just red velvet. Who is going to tell them? Ah, well, it's not hurting anyone and she supposes it makes sense that the sides would have different names for things.) "If we ever have to go to my side, I can take you to the best berry orchard in Elsewhere." She would say more, but suddenly they’re rushing and Willow is struggling to keep up. (Thankfully for Juliet, Willow does not hear any of the snippets of gossip. She doesn’t even register that they’re running again because of the possibility that they will get caught.)

She does look a little betrayed when the archer takes her to another set of stairs, believing they will to climb even more, but then… the staircase splits apart? “What the…” she mutters, her eyes wide with wonder. She struggles to remain forward facing once they’re in the tunnel, turning her head from side to side, up and down, trying to take in as much of this as time will allow. (As in, what Juliet’s pace will allow her to see. Gah, she walks so fast!)

“Yeah, I guess I have worked hard,” Willow admits in between eyefulls of wonderment. (Like this, her tone sounds distant and dreamy.) Still, she doesn’t think it’s as great as what Juliet is doing. All of her stuff has been behind a book or typewriter. Sure, sure––plenty of academics have made important contributions from their books and inkwells, but for Willow James? Who desires more than a quiet academic life can offer? It won’t be enough for her and she had not realized that until this opportunity with love came about.

She sighs and tucks a loose curl behind her ear, staring down at her plate. (She smiles remembering the strawberry incident.) “But it’s a different kind of hard work than what I think this venture might require. I mean, I can only strategize so much to play to my strengths. At a certain point, I need the skill to back it.” (That, again, she does have! Otherwise she wouldn’t have the famed Carmilla le Roux as her thesis advisor––the sorceress who practically invented the study of illusions. That she had been impressed with Willow’s charms and adaptation of her spells when she interviewed? Willow still thinks about how the esteemed sorceress's lips twitched––no one's ever gotten that kind of reaction from her and Willow knows to feel good about it. It's just that that had been a contained environment and Willow had weeks to prepare both mentally and physically. She also knew what to expect. When they venture into the wood, no one is going to write her a list of adversaries she will see or when she will be encountering them; she won't have any clue how to prepare. She'll... she'll have to trust herself.) “I’m sure with you as a teacher, I’ll be quite interested in my lessons and, uh, making sure I don’t embarrass you.”

When they enter what Willow will later learn is called the music room, she gasps, taking this opportunity to fully spin around and marvel at the room. It's as ornate as the rest of the castle, but she doesn't find herself nearly as intimidated by it. Maybe because it's much smaller and the fixings are more minimal. Either way, she can see why this would be Juliet August's favorite place in the castle. She naturally wanders over to the grand piano, setting her plate down on the bench (she does grab the lemon tart as she suspects leaving an unattended plate around Juliet August might result in an empty plate when she returns) to run her fingers over the carvings. She then goes to the bay window to admire the view and then over to the platform to look over the variety of other beautifully ornate instruments. ‘Gosh, this all looks so expensive.’

She takes a bite of the tart, pleased that it truly is tart, as she runs her fingers delicately over the viola. “Sort of,” she replies with a wiggly hand gesture to punctuate just the level of 'sort of' she means. (Music was always more of Leif’s thing––he is the type who can hear a tune and reproduce it effortlessly.) “I know a few songs on the piano and ukulele, but I just memorized them. It’s not like I can read sheet music or anything like that.” Realizing that this now might set the expectation that she play something, she hurriedly adds, "But I really don't play in front of people––I get too nervous and just forget everything I know." She polishes off the tart and then sits down at the piano, even if she has no intention to play. "What about yourself? What secret talents does the great Juliet August have?" Then, rather slyly (or so she thinks) she adds, "Aside from defying death."


Juliet is acutely aware of where Willow James sets her plate as she strides towards her velvety, tufted sofa in the other corner of the room. She removes her shoes and then throws herself down upon it in a fashion that her mother would scorn as 'most unladylike'. (Mother is not here. But there are many times where Juliet has acted out in the castle, mistakingly thinking she was not there when she actually was. The archer has learned to listen for her footsteps-- but it turns out that that is not enough. If the right eyes or ears catch her, then the gossip will reach her eventually. Her mother is a masterful forager when it comes to gathering whispers and rumors.) This tenseness accompanies every small rebellion, even now. Even when it really shouldn't. Because she is beyond the point of caring what these nobles think of her. There is a world beyond the crystalized bubble of Amoria and one day she intends to escape it forever. (She was almost there. She'd been so close. If it wasn't for...) Her eyes track the lemon tart, which Willow James holds onto, and she diverts her attention to the painted mural on the ceiling as if not to make her interest obvious. It is true that she did wrap some sweets up herself... but she is practicing self restraint and saving them for when she is in a location where such sweets are no longer accessible to her.

The simple act of tilting her head back makes the archer sleepy. Heavy exhaustion settles itself over her eyelids now that she is finally resting. This has been an eventful day, more so than usual. Exploring the wood, meeting an Other Sider and socializing. The announcement. While she may be able to hide now, she won't be able to hide forever. They will blame her for putting ideas in the princess's head, Lavinia's mother will reaffirm her stance that bringing in an 'urchin from the outside' all those years ago was a grave mistake. (Not that it matters. It's the same old song and dance. She knows the steps. She just has to swallow the words she'll never say, even if they're heated enough to burn her throat in the process, and endure it long enough not to give into her innermost desires to burn the castle down. This is why Grace sticks to the shadows and does not accompany her into the castle anymore... when a fox starts breathing fire, it becomes apparent that something is amiss.) The castle itself drains her. If anyone asks, though, Juliet has not had the chance to rest her aching feet since before sunrise. That is the reason why she is so tired. Physical exertion and nothing more than that. Because her feelings are not allowed to exist.

"I see. I learned to read sheet music as a girl... but I prefer to listen." Juliet's ears have always been sharp, attuned to every little sound, so she has been told that it makes sense that she learns best by ear instead of 'by the book'. (What does music on the Other Side sound like? Is it the same?) Then she considers what Willow has to say about nerves, wrapping a red lock of hair distractedly around her hand. (Another habit that mother would have commented on. Her hair strangles her wrist.) "Princess Elise was the same way. She did not like to go up on stage." She remembers the princess clinging to her hand, claiming she would not go without Juliet there beside her. Eventually her duties made it impossible for her to avoid such events. (Once Juliet asked her why she started dressing in such sparkly dresses... and princess Elise smiled and said she became happier expressing herself when she felt like she was 'being who she was on the inside'.) Still, she can only imagine the strength it took for her to make that announcement. (For Flynn Everson of all people. He is, er, nice. One of the only boys who treated her with genuine kindness when they were kids. Yes, he will treat her like the princess she is. But he is so very simple.) Juliet can only hope that he is worth it. In the moment, love seems like it is worth all of the risk in the world. Until...

Aside from defying death. Defying death? Juliet's brown eyes widen with realization before flickering like cornered prey. The heart she's been trying to ignore pounds fervently at her chest, like an intruder. Like a killer who's out for her blood. She gathers her legs and skirts against her chest and averts her gaze. Where did she...?

"...I used to act and dance at the opera house." Juliet starts, miraculously managing to keep her voice steady. (By now she's had lots of practice. Doesn't get any easier to try and block out the memories that accompany that part of her life, though. She's fine. It's behind her. And in a way she does understand the intrigue, as much as she hates fielding the questions. It makes sense, hearing such things, why anyone would be curious. After all, how does a dead girl come back to life?) "And, yes... at one point I faked my own death." She tries to make this sound casual. As casual as it can possibly sound. "I was thirteen." (Thirteen and stupid. Stupid and in love with someone she should not have been in love with. Thirteen and heartbroken and desperate to get revenge and run away.) "And I know my poisons." She shrugs. Again, keeping this casual. "My 'death' was so convincing that Lavinia still brings it up to this day, all of these years later. I suppose she has nothing better to talk about."

Juliet 'died' with the intention of staying dead. She never wanted to come back. This is all in the past, though, and there is not point in digging any deeper into the reasons why.

The archer considers what else she can add to her list of 'talents' to change the topic and effectively set it to rest. Hm. Her ability to twirl a blade is rather distracting, and also one that she takes much pride in. (Once she saw Lara do it for the first time, Juliet was so fascinated that she demanded the woman teach her immediately. She had been six years old at the time. Surprisingly, Lara told her that she learned that trick from a pixie. Evidently, pixies and faeries are very skilled with knives.) With Willow James's nervous disposition, she's not sure if brandishing her dagger all of a sudden would be the wisest course of action. Then again, Willow James intends to learn to fight from her. And no one else is around, so... Juliet fishes under her skirts for the dagger strapped to her leg and proceeds to twirl it like a baton between her fingers. "...I can also perform a number of dagger tricks." She adds, nonchalant as ever. "Would you like to learn one?"


lover / leaver
As Willow James sits on the piano bench and looks around the room (because she's trying to keep from staring at Juliet), she realizes that she has never been this far from home before. Each step taken takes her further and further from the Rhode Island house where she did most of her growing up. There is a part of her that feels a tug to go back––a part that is doubtful of herself, a part that worries over worrying others (no doubt her entire family is frantic and also trying to remain calm), a part of her that already misses Elsewhere. This is similar to how she felt her first night of college when she slept in a room that did not yet feel like hers in a place that did not yet feel like home. Though unlike that time, she had not known who her person was and there is a small comfort in knowing that Juliet is here with her, even if she is still a stranger to her.

She looks up at the mural on the ceiling when Juliet starts to talk, not wanting the archer to catch her staring. She is trying to keep it casual––she doesn't want to freak Juliet out. Even if she knows that it is nearly impossible to scare off one’s match (or it was), she’s been burned far too many times to chance any mistakes now that she’s finally, finally, finally, stumbled into Juliet August. She steals a careful glance at the lounging woman and smiles to herself. It’s impossible for her to resist picturing what it would be like to curl up beside her and listen to her heartbeat. 'She's cute.'

When her eyes flick back down to the keys in front of her, she pictures a version of herself who isn’t so scared. A version of herself who would play symphonies for Juliet, fearlessly. She stares down at the keys and even debates just tapping on one. She even mentally runs through her five song repertoire to see if maybe there is one she would feel okay about playing, but ultimately Willow James just is not that brave (yet) and so she doesn’t dare even start. (The idea of failing in front of the other woman when she has already seen her falter fills her stomach with dread, heavy enough to sink her. No, she must aim to be perfect so that Juliet does not wonder how she got stuck with someone like Willow James.) ‘Someday,’ she insists, ‘Someday, I will be fearless and play a song for Juliet August.’ She even has the perfect one in mind already.

“Really? I cannot imagine princess Elise as shy––she just seems so,” she struggles for a word, “lively.” Because that really is a good descriptor for the princess, even if it leaves so much open to interpretation. “And she just has a way of capturing everyone’s attention.” Even though she is surprised to learn this, she does also find it inspiring. If princess Elise can overcome her fears, then why should Willow James not be able to? (She also notes that this is another difference between Elise and Dorothea. Dorothea Birdsong never shied away from the spotlight. She seemed to shine brightest in it, like it was made for her. That’s probably why she got every lead role in the school plays.)

She watches as the archer curls herself into a ball on the couch and realizes it might not have been wise to reveal that she had heard that particular rumor––or at least, she could have done it with more tact. The guilt starts to nibble at her and even if Juliet does not express offense or discomfort verbally, she does wonder what she must be thinking of Willow. ‘I bet she thinks you’re nosy.’

While Willow is (nosily) curious to know more about the stunt the other woman pulled when she was thirteen, she already knows she’s pushing up against boundaries far too early––even if by accident. She looks away from the redhead, deciding to stare out the window as a distraction from her own discomfort. She chews on the inside of her lip, thinking of how exactly she might be able to make this more fair, because already she has learned so much of Juliet August (without her consent) and Juliet August knows so little about Willow James. (Of course, there is a time and place for everything, and she only hopes this won’t make it weird.) She just doesn’t want her feeling like she’s the only one who’s exposed.

“Being a thirteen year old is powerful,” she furrows her brows, remembering how invincible and fragile she felt back then. How passionately she could hurt and how fiercely she felt. Everything was a big deal. Being a teenager is powerful. Those hormones are no joke. “I never faked my own death, but when I was fifteen I really wanted to run away and almost did.” In the end, she didn’t want to make her grandmas sad or any of her family members, really. Plus, the thought of having to figure out how to make it on her own terrified her so she turned right back around the second her hand hovered over the doorknob. “Um,” she swallows and pauses for a beat. (She knows she doesn’t have to do this. Juliet didn’t ask. Juliet might not even want to know. And still Willow wants to do this.) “It was pretty much the worst Tuesday of my life––my first girlfriend broke up with me,” a week after taking Willow’s first kiss and telling her she loved her, “and then my dad got arrested later that evening.”

She stares down at her hands while her leg bounces frantically underneath her skirts. ‘That was too much.’ She sighs and looks up, at first avoiding Juliet, but she does eventually let her eyes settle on the redhead. “That’s different, I know. I won’t pretend to know your life or hardships. I won't pretend I have a similar experience––we are quite litcherally from different worlds––but since secrets are being spilled…” she rolls her wrist as if that explains everything else. “I just figure you ought to get to know me a little, too.”

Then Willow straightens up as Juliet pulls a dagger from under her skirts and twirls it effortlessly. That’s easily the coolest thing she has ever seen and her mouth opens a little when the woman offers to teach her a dagger trick. This feels pretty unsafe, but if Juliet is offering… Well, she’ll keep her safe. Willow just knows it! She nods dumbly, her cheeks a storm of pink, and then gets up from the bench, almost trips, and scurries closer to Juliet. “Yeah, wow, teach me everything––Leif is going to be so jealous when I come back doing cool tricks with his knife. Can you juggle knives?”


And so Juliet teaches dagger tricks, silently watching the other woman make her attempts once they've gotten started. She silently decides that Willow James is... interesting. And not just in the ways in that any other Other Sider would be interesting. As a person, she is timorous in some ways and yet remarkably fearless in others. The archer seldom encounters anyone like this, responding to the scatter of breadcrumbs regarding her own experience by sharing troubling experiences of her own. She does not comment on or delve any deeper into the story that was her disastrous life at thirteen years old, does not attempt to crack her open to judge her heart. To find her weaknesses. (...Contrary to what most people believe, Juliet is plainly aware of how little she gives. She has been told on numerous occasions that she is a terrible storyteller in reference to her concise manner of speaking. But she is selective about her words with good reason, having long ago learned her lesson when it comes to talk. Words can be used against her. They can get twisted beyond recognition until they lose their true meaning as they are whispered from one ear to the next. When she was honest, laying her whole heart out on the floor, no one in the kingdom saw her for who she was. Her bleeding heart was either judged, stomped on or neglected entirely. Never cradled or cared for. It was only a matter of time before she decided enough was enough and stopped explaining. Stopped apologizing and making excuses for people who did not deserve excuses. It's too excruciating to try-- so she promised herself that the right to her thoughts and stories must be earned first. For now, Grace and Millicent are the only ones. For now? She catches this thought and cautiously glances at the thread hanging between herself and Willow James. It doesn't mean anything. Well. Juliet is out of practice, anyway. These days she struggles to come up with words when it is necessary for her to use them. In the wood, she has gone for months without speaking a single word to anyone but Grace. And Grace is a fox.) Still. She sees that Willow James is considerate in the way she shifts the shine of the flaming hot spotlight away from Juliet, allowing her some time to compose herself. (There is something safe about her.) First girlfriends, her father, and the thoughts of running away. She acknowledges that she does not fully understand everything that Willow James has been through either (as the sorceress herself pointed out) but she does understand the desire to run. They have something in common there. When the archer catches their thread flicker with light in her peripheral she vehemently wishes that she hadn't.

It's when Juliet shows that she can indeed juggle daggers that princess Elise makes her entrance. (Not through the door, but through the enchanted, gold-framed mirror at the other end of the room. These passages in the castle are exclusively available to the royal family.) Her cheeks are rosy, her skirts and spirally, royal curls just the slightest bit out of place.

"Oh, marvelous. I had a feeling you two might be here." Elise bolsters a smile, managing to speak once she catches her breath. "Well. Either here or in the kitchens. You did miss the main course, after all."

"...Yes. Willow asked to see the second best view in the castle." Juliet supplies the facts with a nod, lowering her daggers. The first of course is the kitchens. The food. (Technically the music room is the third best room, or even the fourth-- but they'd have been spotted right away in the most scenic areas of the castle directly after an event such as this. There are balconies where they can see stunning views of all of Amoria. Although to be honest, those views are more or less on par with those they saw while riding on Lucky's back.)

"I see. The second best secluded view, I take it." Elise never loses her smile, despite the tiny wrinkles of worry and exhaustion between her eyebrows. Then she snorts as if something about all of this is funny to her. (A habit 'unfitting' for a princess, the queen would say. But her mother is not here.) "And instead of playing music you are playing with knives! Willow, I will have to give you a proper tour of the castle later. While our meeting at this moment in time feels like fate, I do regret that we've had to meet on such a chaotic night." She joins them on the sofa, then, lowering her voice to a whisper. "I have not yet told anyone that you come from the Other Side. It became apparent after all the, ah, excitement that any more news might keep the two of you from your important mission. I am afraid I cannot stop word from spreading, considering Lavinia already knows, but I can at least keep your presence in the castle a secret until you leave in the morning. Otherwise there is no telling how many questions you will be made to answer..." She purses her lips, undoubtedly recalling all of the questions she must have been made to answer after her announcement.

Juliet nods. While Elise's excitement is what initially what spread the gossip, it seems she understands now why this information ought to be kept quiet for now. Good.

"Ah! Before I go on... you must be tired. I have prepared a room for the both of you. We can talk more there." Elise rises from her seat, then, gesturing for them to follow her towards the mirror she came through earlier. "Willow, please take my hand." She offers her hands to Willow and Juliet both. This is because they need to be holding onto Elise in order to travel through the shortcuts that the mirrors provide. In a flash, they find themselves in one of the luxurious guest chambers. The first thing Juliet spots (or rather smells) is the delicious meal set up for them on the tiny dining area in the corner. She giggles seeing the archer's reaction. "Help yourselves to anything you like. I have left some coin in the wardrobe, too... there must be some items that you'd like to purchase in the kingdom tomorrow to prepare for your noble quest." She places her hands over her heart and sighs, as if she's daydreaming about undertaking a quest of her own. "I have also left a scroll detailing the most recent cases of the sickness for you to investigate."

"Thank you." Juliet dips in a small curtsey, resisting the urge to go directly to the food. "Congratulations on your engagement." (Ah. Of course, she only says this because it's polite... not because she feels that Elise might need to hear it from someone after the night she's had.)

"...I do hope I'm doing the right thing. In times such as these I truly feel that I must follow my heart." Princess Elise nods, appearing tired for the first time that evening. Juliet withholds her own opinions. (The part of her that was young once and in love once understands. Yes, Juliet might be the same age as Elise... but it has always been apparent that she grew up much faster than the princess.) "After tonight we may not see each other for quite a while... but it would set my heart at ease if you two heroines of love were in attendance on my wedding day. We have not settled on a date yet, but you will be the first to know when I do. I intend to see this through no matter what." She tucks a curl behind her ear, her blue eyes sparkling brighter than her dress with determination. "That said, it is only a matter of time before everyone will be wondering where I am again. Is there anything else you might need before I take my leave, Willow James? This is your first night in Amoria and I should like to see to it that all of your needs are met."


lover / leaver
Juliet August is nothing short of interesting. There is a graceful elegance to how she handles the daggers, effortlessly tossing them up into the air, catching them, and moving them between her hands. To say that Willow is just impressed would be the understatement of the century, but it also goes without saying––her eyes have practically turned into the night sky with how they twinkle. (She has never met a woman like Juliet August before. She never would have even imagined that people like the archer exist outside of her storybooks and she certainly never would have guessed that someone who seems like they are from a storybook would be anchored to the end of her thread. In all her years of picturing who her person might be, she would not have dreamed of her being from the Other Side. An other sider. There’s nothing wrong with this––she trusts what the fates have in store for her, because they have always protected and watched out for her in one way or another. Not being what she had been dreaming of is just different and Juliet August is a good kind of different.)

It’s a good thing that when princess Elise makes her surprise entrance that Willow James is not holding one of the knives, because she jumps out of her seat when the woman announces herself so suddenly. (She already has enough knicks on her fingers from practicing the dagger trick as it is. At least injuries are universally attractive even if hers are probably still like paper cuts in comparison to what a real battle hardened hero might experience. Not that she’s looking forward to fighting and collecting battle scars––she’s terrified of that prospect and is naïvely hoping that she can ‘diplomatic solution’ her way out of any conflict. Of course to do that she will first need to learn how to not cower when ogres in the wood threaten to eat her…)

She settles some just in time to realize that princess Elise has come through the mirror on the wall. Immediately, the sorceress bolts out of her seat to check out the piece. Her eyes are as wide and as shiny as they had been watching the archer show off her tricks and the tiniest, “Oooooh,” escapes through her breath as she inspects it and even experimentally taps the glass. Solid. If she had to guess, it’s probably a custom enchantment set to a specific DNA signature or there is a passcode of sorts, like a personalized glyph. Very neat. (She wonders if the base spell is the same as the one she uses on her mirrorball keychain or if it’s something else entirely.) “This is so dope, dude. Your royal dudeness?” she muses, not even recognizing that she is speaking nonsense as she is completely taken by this magic mirror.

Still paying attention to the conversation behind her, Willow realizes that Juliet literally took her to the second best view in the castle. (Second best secluded view, according to the princess.) She isn’t sure whether or not to laugh so she settles on a signature smile as she turns back around and rejoins the women on the sofa. There’s something about the archer that is just so genuine that she cannot and does not think she missed the flirtations on purpose. It’s not out of the question, but for now she believes that the redhead is legitimately oblivious––more data is needed, but this is her working hypothesis for now. (Another point for Juliet August being cute.)

As much as she’d love to continue thinking about Juliet August undisturbed, the princess mentions that while she hasn’t let slip where Willow is from, it’s out of her hands since Lavinia Laurence knows. And girls like Lavinia Laurence never know how to mind their own business. The realization dawns on her that she’s going to have a lot of attention on her the next time she’s seen and all she can think is, ‘Oh gods.’ Her eyes widen in mild horror, her heart zips forward as she imagines all the questions she might have to field; all the taunts that could be sent her way; all the disappointed faces she might see when they realize that Willow James is not who she so boldly claimed to be. Her palms start to get uncomfortably moist as a chill trickles down from the top of her head and a heat creeps up her neck. (She’s so glad that her and Juliet are not at the hand holding stage yet, because this would be disgusting.)

Hoping she hasn’t paused for too long and let on that she’s a hero with anxiety, she rubs the back of her neck and nervously chuckles, “Dang, no worries. I guess the sooner people know, the sooner this will all cool off.” Though with girls who have petty long memories like Lavinia, she might not be able to count on it. (Now that she’s thinking about it more, Lavinia Laurence has some striking similarities to Kinsley Prescot––a stuck up snob who prides herself in always having the hottest piece of gossip to dish. Girls like that can only cling to relevance by being gossip girls. Blerg.)

The longer she thinks about the attention, however, the less she minds. Maybe it’s seeing the contemplative look on the princess’s face when she mentions the questions she’s had to field following the announcement, but Willow decides that if the spotlight on her takes some of the heat off of the princess then she can handle it. Besides, she’s pretty sure Juliet wouldn’t leave her alone to the wolves. (Even if she did earlier when she weaved over to the refreshment table.)

Then, before she even has time to fully process that she is going to be sharing a room with Juliet August, the princess is asking for Willow’s hand and pulling her through the enchanted mirror (!!!). When they land in a room as lavish and rich as the rest of the palace, Willow has to stick her hands out for balance as she recovers from the travel. (It’s almost exactly like traveling through her mirrorball––but slightly more wooshy. Yes, wooshy. That is absolutely the technical term… if you are Willow James.) She steps forward into the room, spinning around to take in everything and barely catching anything that princess Elise is saying––something about coins and the sickness, but that’s all she catches in her wonderstruck state.

When her eyes land on the bed, huge as it is, she notes that there is only one. One. Juliet and herself make up two separate people. There is one bed. Does this mean… Willow’s eyes widen again. Does this mean they’re going to share a bed? Is someone supposed to sleep on the floor? Is there maybe a secret second bed she doesn’t know about? Gah!! She has so many questions about this arrangement and she is too scared to ask at least half of them for fear of sounding like an even bigger uncool weirdo nerd than she already is.

Too overwhelmed thinking about sleeping arrangements, she sits herself down on one of the chairs in the dining area, angling so that she can drape one arm over the back of the chair as she stares at the bed (1). “I think you’re brave for defying expectations like that and following your heart,” Willow affirms, wanting the princess to know that she understands. Love is unexpected, after all, and the thread hanging between herself and Juliet is proof enough of that. “Love conquers all, princess. I think that, at the end of the day, it’s all we have and usually the choices we make under its influence are only for us to understand. It’s proof we’re not so rational as philosophers think.” The spirits certainly know that Willow has made questionable choices when she has convinced herself it was love and it wasn’t. It’s a powerful placebo drug and for as terrible as it can be, it’s not something she will ever give up on. She can’t. She’s seen good love; she knows it exists and it will exist for her. Of that, she is most certain (or delusional as Ryan once told her). “Anyway, you def deserve to be with someone who makes your heart sing. We all do, of course, and I especially wish you and Flynn the best.” (In some ways, Willow is saying what she wishes she could to Dorothea who definitely deserves better than King––or at least that one.) “I’m going to be working most diligently on this mission, I promise,” she offers a reassuring smile.

When the princess asks if she needs anything, Willow tilts her head to think on this for a moment. “I think… I think I’m good?” Yeah, so long as they circle back to Juliet’s tomorrow so that she can grab her personal belongings, she is fairly certain that she is set. “Oh, wait! If you could spare some paper, a pen, and a bottle––any bottle will work––that would be super duper.” As tired as she is, she can’t lose her thoughts to sleep and she needs to make sure she documents everything she has learned so she can send her findings to Sawyer. (Although, now that she’s thinking about it, will her message even make it to Sawyer? Even if she uses Sawyer’s personalized message glyph, what if the spell doesn’t work from this side? Huh, this is not something Willow James considered and she guesses she is about to find out.) “Oh, are there any restrictions or laws regarding dragons? My companion is a dragon and I imagine they’ll be back soon and I don’t want to startle the guards. They’re totally harmless.”


Juliet silently eats the meal provided for her while Elise speaks with Willow. (She can't resist it for any longer... and it is only practical to finish her food while it's still fresh and warm. She prefers eating here as opposed to at the banquet hall table, anyway, as it allows her to dip pieces of her bread in her creamy soup without worrying about prim and proper manners.) The princess agrees to the request for materials and then explains the laws surrounding dragons in Amoria-- which are fairly standard in the sense that so long as they're not used to burn down any residences, cause disruptions, or harm people, then there are not all too many restrictions on where a dragon can and cannot go. (Naturally these restrictions are tighter around the castle and the guards standing outside would not allow for a dragon they don't recognize to fly in past the gates.) "I will inform the guards that I am expecting a dragon and see to it that they make it safely to you." The princess promises with a little bob. "Everything will be super duper, dude." She giggles at the phrases as she repeats them. By the time she bids them farewell for the evening and passes again through the mirror as not to alert anyone of their presence within this guest chamber, Juliet has already finished her own dish. There is not even a scrap of what was once there to be seen. (...She was starving and it was delicious. The grilled fish melted in her mouth.) And now she needs to distract herself with another task before she can even consider swiping anything from Willow James's plate.

"I am going to take a bath." Juliet decides with a nod. "Make sure to eat all you can. We may be able to stop by the market tomorrow, depending on how much time we have... but food of this quality will be harder to come by on our travels." With that said, she peers into the wardrobe and impartially selects a white nightdress from one of the hangers. Then she disappears into the side door that leads into the bathroom. It's just as extravagant as any other room in the castle and the large, circular bath looks particularly inviting. Juliet pulls on the string hanging down from the iridescent fountain on the wall, which activates it and sends a steady flow of warm water trickling down into the bath. Everything sparkles with an iridescent sheen and is covered in delicate roses and pearls. This design is inspired by the neighboring sea kingdoms. The queen herself came from the sea, having had to sacrifice her tail for legs when her marriage to the king of Amoria was arranged. (With her sense of responsibility, there's no telling how severely she's going to react to Elise's decision.) That said, a number of the guest chambers in the castle are essentially rooms just like this, filled entirely by giant pools containing underwater accommodations, designed specifically for the comfort of the queen's family and their mermaid guests. She and princess Elise snuck away to explore them once when they were children.

While Juliet undresses, her hand grazes the red crystal she wears around her neck. It gleams once, indicating the arrival of a new letter. Oh. (She always wears it underneath her clothes, as not to draw any attention to it. Biting her lip, her gaze flickers cautiously to the door. From now on she'll be traveling with a companion. Best that she do it now while she has the privacy.) She scatters some of the provided rose petals into the bath and then sinks herself into it with a sigh. (The warm water is heaven against her skin, soothing her achey muscles. The floral scent nearly causes her to lose herself in a daydream of the flower fields of her childhood-- but no, there is business to attend to.) Once she's settled, she takes the crystal into the palm of her hand and closes her eyes. 'I'm listening.' With this thought, the crystal hovers in the air and glows a faint red that illuminates her corner of the room. Then it projects a text that scrawls across the wall, like calligraphy over stationery. 'Dear Juliet,' All of the letters start this way. 'I needed to take action and seek you out at last... before I give him another chance he does not deserve. I cannot go on like this.'

The letter continues in this same vein, detailing a woman's woes with a man who is continually unfaithful to her before pleading with her for help. They live in a small town by the sea and the archer makes a note of this for whenever she is in that area again. Douglas Abberton. Once she has the name of her target, she closes her palm around the crystal to erase the words and cut the glow.

...Juliet is something of a myth to those who don't know her personally. Many seek out information about her identity in dark pubs and alleyways and-- if they're desperate enough-- travel a long way to visit Millicent's cousin, Nessa, so that they might have their messages relayed to her this way. She seeks out these targets at her own convenience, usually when she is near the area detailed in the message. There is no telling how long it will take before she finds this Douglas Abberton.

With that matter settled, Juliet eventually finishes her bath and pads back into the room with her crystal pendant tucked safely beneath her nightgown. She sits herself down at the vanity and struggles to runs a comb through her tangled wet hair, turning in the chair so she faces Willow James instead of the mirror. (She doesn't catch onto the fact that a few of the flower petals from her bath have gotten caught in her red locks.) "...The bath is ready if you would like one, too." She tilts her head, "Have you received the materials that you requested?"

The archer doesn't ask what they are for, although she is somewhat curious. The indication is clearly a message in a bottle. (...Who does she intend to write to? Is there perhaps a method to sending messages to the Other Side?) However, Juliet decides not to pry and simply continues down her list of practical things to discuss as she wrestles the comb through her most stubborn tangles. "...You may take the bed tonight. I do not mind sleeping on the floor." She nods. What else, what else? Right-- the dragon. "Are there any arrangements we should make for Lucky? Where do they like to sleep?" Grace likes to sleep at her feet. (But she will be sleeping in Juliet's bed in the wood alone tonight. Much like Juliet, though, the fox is content to keep to herself from time to time.) She knows that some companions are very particular about their routines, however, and liable to act out when faced with unfamiliarity. In a dragon's case it is only best to be prepared.

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