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Fantasy - Wildfire - [CLOSED]

Sub Genres
Adventure, Magical

peritwinkle

♠️your local Raphael♠️
Helper
Kaira jolted at the sudden interruption and looked behind her shoulder to see Lord Skovgaard, undoubtedly there to ask her questions of his own. She tensed and took in a deep breath, partially thankful for being spared the long explanation to Jonathan, albeit knowing that the young Lord had no intention of simply forgetting it. She pursed her lips nervously at the peck he placed on her knuckles, but did not protest; perhaps being courteous towards Volur was customary in Wendlyn, or maybe Jonathan was merely mocking her for a bit of fun.

As he vanished back through the castle doors and the other man advanced, she could sense a certain tension within him, almost sister to fear. It was empowering, knowing that she had such effect over someone thrice her size and experience in war. He had brought his dog with him, a large, dark creature, likely a silent threat in case she felt daring that day. They both knew she could kill him with the snap of a finger and, at that moment, had very little to lose. Death did not scare her, but she did not think of herself ready to face it just yet.

The beast did not seem quite as cold as his owner, however, as it pushed its way under her hand and Kaira gave it a reluctant rub on the forehead. She had not had many opportunities of playing with animals back at Yllevad, and even when King Alastair was kind enough to send her hunting every now and then, she was not allowed to distract the hounds. They were beautiful creatures, smart and agile, but she had not seen one quite as social as Kyel’s.

“We both know you are not here to talk about dogs, are you, Lord Skovgaard?” she said as she looked forward, hands tied behind her back. She was tempted to ask him if he had brought his pet along to protect him, but she knew better than to anger the man. He seemed quite a few years older than her and likely more tired of banter than she was. “Lord Pelletier and I were supposed to be looking into the pillager matter, but I admit I am a bit too tired for administrational issues still.”
 

Will

Will
Had she not been a Volur, a smile would have crept onto his lips at her comment. Perhaps even admiration would have entered his gaze. Whenever he spoke to young women formalities were a custom. Ignoring this factor was pleasant for the time being. She was tired. Again, had she not been a Volur he would have led her inside, even offered to let her rest. But in this case he was sure he preferred a tired Volur to a well rested one.

“Then hopefully sleep will be effortless tonight,” he replied coolly. He mulled over his thoughts from earlier in the day. A truce? How foolish to think such. “I’d like our efforts civil.” He motioned for Felix to move on the other side of him, away from her. “I do not see the same qualities my allies believe you have.” His back straightened, “But in the effort of alliship, and defeating the crown, there is potential for your kind to be integrated back into this land freely,” he frowned with disgust. “So, I would like to attempt working with you. To learn about Volur from one, rather than my books,” he spoke nearly with gritted teeth. Proving himself to the Elders would be difficult, perhaps a diplomatic relationship with the Volur would benefit them all.

“I apologize for my lack of tact at the meeting earlier. My entire life the Volur were evil to me. I still see them that way,” he paused, his eyes moving over her, “You that way,” he cracked one of his hands. “The words I spoke at the meeting still hold true. But I cannot give you my trust as easily as the others. And since our meeting I know we want the same things. At least in the sense of Alastair’s death,” Kyel informed her. “And because of that, I do not need to blindly trust you as you hope we do,” He noted, “And you won’t us, but tell me Kaira,” he said her name sourly, “How do we build it? Do I need to play games as Lord Pelletier intends on doing?” He mused.

“No more saving the city from raiders. Harmless if they haven’t dealt with it already. I would like you to accompany me and Bastain Osmund to Riftmere. We will give Lord Pelletier the option to visit his home as well.” He stopped walking, stepping before the young woman, “Ships. We are looking into an option that will distract Windhold, they are close enough to the sea it could be beneficial to draw forces away if we need it.”
 

peritwinkle

♠️your local Raphael♠️
Helper
Kaira could sense the disgust in Kyel’s voice whenever he referred to her, but she was not at all moved by his hatred. She was used to not being treated as any other woman her age, even less as a Lady or member of the court. It was clear to her then that his conjectures were inherent, seeded into his mind from the day he was born. He had suffered from the hands of Volur and the hands of King Alastair greatly, but so had the rest of his council, and yet they had not been quite as keen on alienating her, but rather seemed to try to pinpoint the sources of their doubts.

“Perhaps you would benefit from being as curious as Lord Pelletier,” she said calmly. Her eyes were locked on the wall of ivy, as if lost in thought. Then, as they met his, she offered him the shadow of a smile, which faded as quickly as her next words came. “We are not on the same page, Lord Skovgaard, because you are unable to read between the lines. Your judgement is quick and superficial. Perhaps we both want the King’s death, but not for the same reasons. Your hatred is fueled by rage, while mine from sadness. Pity, maybe, but not for myself. He has been good to me, as good as someone like him goes. I never went hungry or cold, even in the harshest of winters. He offered me rest when I needed it.”

She looked downwards to the stones beneath her feet and let out a long breath through her nose, before turning to look back at him. “I will obey your judgement now, if that is what the council wants, too. But I did wish we had a couple of days more before we left. I can’t say I had the best of sleeps last night and I am sure you did not, either. You look pale.” She gave him another smirk of courtesy and swiftly walked past him back towards the castle. She assumed he would follow, along with his guard dog, even if truly, she would have preferred to explore Greenwall alone.

“Regarding the games, though,” she shrugged, “you may try as he does. Not many have before, and I admit I do enjoy the attention.” Truly, nobody had. The only other men she ever spoke to were the King’s hunters, and that only on the very few occasions they took short breaks whenever they felt peckish and stopped for a bite and a drink. She could almost smell the crackling fire and foaming beer as they waited for their game to roast over the flames. The present felt cold and colorless compared to her memories of her rare breaks from her life at court.

“I know you fear me, even if you might not like to admit it,” she added, slowing down. “I am not a mindless wild animal though, Kyel,” she pressed on his first name as he had on hers. “I do not attack without warning. I do have a few things I wish to take care of before I die, so you may start shivering behind your guard pup as soon as I get what I want, if you will,” she teased. “Lighten up. You could learn a thing or two from your friend, Lord Pelletier.”
 

Will

Will
He disliked the comparison to Lord Pelletier and his jaw clenched when she called him superficial. Their reasons did not matter, they both had the same end in mind. “We can postpone the trip a day,” he decided, frowning at her comment of his own well being. His thoughts plagued him in the night long before he traveled here. Only now did this new alliship cause even more stress. He followed her back towards the castle, her semi spritely nature surprised him.

His back stiffened as she said she knew of his fear. Fear was an understatement. She was an abomination to nature, being able to kill with the flick of the wrist. Every man deserved a fighting chance to live. “Death should come for a man in the natural sense. In his sleep, in sickness, even in a fight. Not by the snap of another’s fingers.” He caught up to step in line with her, “Lord Pelletier's unbreaking need of answers to every insufferable question he has is not a skill I seek.” Kyel informed her.

“Rest well tonight. I will call on you tomorrow, use our interim before Riftmere actively.” He decided. Despite her insistent quips, he needed to learn all he could of Kaira. He needed the information on how things went on in Windhold if they were to plan an attack. There was a probable chance she had enough information on the King for an active plan. Offering a smile, he bowed his head to her, “Thank you for your time Kaira,” he said, hoping to remove the bitter objection he held towards her the previous night.

He called Felix forward as he moved back inside of the castle. It would have been honorable to show her back to her room, or back to Lord Pelletier. But Kyel had some general certainties about Kaira and how he would treat the Volur. He truly desired perfect confidence in her, he could then consent willingly to any plans she had. If he could overcome this obstacle, there could be an immediate abundance in their lands.

*

Jonathan had left the castle courtyard towards a small green space where archery targets were set up. He looked out from it’s gentle height over the neighboring valley and the village outlying the eastern downs. In the distance he could see the slow rise of cultivated country. When he was small and they traveled to Wendlyn from Riftmere he always admired watching the castle approach. He liked seeing how it stood on the highest platform in the small cluster of hills. The rough limestone and enchanting ivy had always fascinated him. Greenwall was full of lights and shadows made by the dark dusts of lichens and the washings of the rain poured with the ivy.

Now he watched the opposite view, from the archery ground which was a carefully kept enclosure on a bit of flattened land to the east of the hill. Members of the lower councils, and other castle folk were roaming around as Jonathan pulled back his first bow, breathing easily against the arrows feather. He took in his surroundings, a group of ladies walking to his left, trying to catch last glimpses of the flowers that surrounded the pitch. The sounds in the distance were pleasant to hear, musical laughs registered a sense of harmony within this land. Within the enclosure, no one except those practicing were allowed, although Jonathan thought of inviting one of the feminine members to his left in for a chat. Jon released the arrow hitting it dead center, causing some of the women to turn their heads. “Perhaps a bet ladies?” he offered.

One of the young maidens smiled at him, but shook her head, “No point Lord Pelletier, you strike the bullseye every time,” She called back to him.

After his arching practice he slung his bow over his shoulder, jogging forward to pluck his arrows from the target and replaced them in his quiver. He then made a quick point back to the courtyard where he found no one, and so without another pass he headed towards Kaira’s room. His knuckles found her door before his feet did, he knocked twice, “Kaira. It’s Jon.” he said, then he paused, “Lord Pelletier,” he corrected.
 

peritwinkle

♠️your local Raphael♠️
Helper
Kaira looked Kyel up and down with a scrutinizing gaze. “Battle might be more natural, yes, but how is it fair?” she said. “A man your size would snap my neck with two fingers before I could even gather the focus to do something to you. Just as a wolf has an advantage over a wounded boar.” He was tall, strong and well trained, for certain better than she was. With all swordfighting lessons, she doubted she would be able to take on him in a fair fight. It seemed, however, that his fear of her powers overtook his mind and made him discredit his own strength.

She was relieved to know he was not in such a hurry about leaving for Riftmere. She needed the rest and warmth, at least for another night if she wished to function at peak capacity. The effects of the sleeping powder they had used on her had diminished considerably after eating, but still lingered somewhere deep within her, keeping her fire smouldering, mellow. “I will see you tomorrow, then,” she nodded coldly. She did not want to give him the wrong impression that she was growing to enjoy his presence. The Northerners scared her, and she could not truly say the people of Wendlyn made for a soothing company either.

Much was expected of her, and she was not sure if she could withstand the weight placed on her shoulders. They sought a hatred within her for Alastair which she had not yet mustered. Growing by a man’s side, as vile as he was, made it difficult for one to truly despise him. The only thing that kept her fighting was the thought that, had it not been for his selfish choices seventeen years before, her family might have still been alive and by her side.

It took Kaira quite a long time to find her way back to her room, but she was in no hurry. The sun had passed its peak by the time she was back under the fur blanket, resting her eyes on the empty wall in front of her. Back at Yllevad, she used to fill her time in the afternoon reading whatever Leon had picked out for her that week, or studying letters for and by the King of recent trades and discussions, to keep her knowledge polished and up to date. It was only in the past couple of years that she had been allowed to participate in some conversations, albeit only there as a quiet stature rather than an additional mind to weigh decisions. Until Leon was freed of his job - by old age or death - she was still his apprentice, merely a standby Volur for whenever Alastair needed her.

A light knock on the door shook her back to reality; Kaira guessed who it was before he presented himself, and she called for the young Lord to come inside. “You wish to know how it went?” she asked as she returned to her meditation spot, eyeing the fire. “I am an outcast here, but I didn’t suppose you and the others would treat me any differently. I still don’t know if I doubt my decision to help you.” The news of her abduction had surely reached the King’s ears by then, and he was for sure twisting his mind for a plan to take her back or strike Wendlyn and the North twice as hard as they had struck him. The prospect of him finding out she was on their side terrified her, but she found solace in the thought that Leon would do everything within his power to convince him that she was doing their will against her own. “He said we are leaving for Riftmere soon.”
 

Will

Will
Jon listened to her recap her conversation with the Northern Lord. Truthfully he did not care what Kyel thought of her, only that he was interested in sparing her life for the time being. It was then Jon decided he would be sad should the Northern Lord take her life. There was a hearty satisfaction that the lord identified such disagreement against her. To Jon’s amusement he had a feeling the Northern Lord would try and practice fair and influential affairs with the girl. Should he be so lucky to witness the comical experience. He opened his mouth to inform her that she should not doubt her decision when she commented they were leaving for Riftmere and Jon froze.

“Riftmere, huh?” He asked, moving over to a chair in the corner of her room and slumping down into it. A frown plagued his lips for a moment, then he lifted his brows towards her as his finger stretched out with decision. “You’ll get the excitement of meeting my brother.” He spoke sarcastically. “Lord Eric,” He mumbled, then he released a small chuckle, “Whole place smells like fish,” now waving his hand, “Sorry, you need no introduction, you’ll see it soon.”

“Now, as much as I would love to hear more about your chat with the bruting Lord of the North, you dropped an intense fact before leaving with him,” Jon said quickly. “Did King Alastair want to procreate with you? Have half Volur children of his own?” Jon wondered. “Not that you aren’t worth procreating with for the normal reasons of course,” Jon’s hand waved again, “I’m sure you’re aware of your beauty, even Lord Skovgaard was eyeing you in the courtyard, and he hates you more than a fox hates garlic.” Jon paused wishing to note her reaction to this fact, and if she had noticed the lusting looks from the older man. “He’s easy on the eyes as well, of course. In a barbaric way I suppose,” Jon kicked one of his feet onto the other chair. “Peculiar isn’t it? The King sends the woman he intends on taking to bed out for battle. Eh, I suppose it makes sense, if you were to take Leon’s spot after popping out a few pups,” Jon mused along trying to figure out the situation for himself. “Well, I would be happy for your input?” He finally asked her.

*

Kyel’s hand knocked on the dark oak door and pressed open the barrier to Cadmus Beor’s personal chamber. His space for work was so much different than Isleas and Bastains. Their method was effective for them, even with such differing personalities. He’d been in this room a few times before, he visited this place where Beor worked many more times than he did the others.

“Lord Beor,” he said and bowed his head slightly in silence. He removed his satin cloak “I’ve come with my sword laid down,” He spoke the analogy cautiously. “I’d like to apologize for my outburst the other night.” He told him, “I also seek your wise advice.” His eyes moved over the old man, Kyel had sought advice from the man before. Only once more serious than this matter, he recalled. Then his own father had died, and Kyel was set to take over his land far sooner than he imagined. Beor had encouraged him, believed in him.

“I must make strides to accept the Volur-” he paused, being proactive was the first step, “Strides to accept Kaira Grimward.” He spoke more confidently. “If I can create a strong diplomatic bond with her, I think our chances of success will be greater,” Kyel decided. “I just… do not know how,” he added, defeated. How could he overcome such hate? More importantly, how could he overcome the fear?
 

peritwinkle

♠️your local Raphael♠️
Helper
Truthfully, Kaira was not sure whether she did want to meet someone with the likes of Lord Pelletier, but she lacked the position to protest any further movement decided by the council. Until they decided she was trustworthy, her word, unless of warning or intelligence regarding the King, was equal to any other servant’s. Still, she intended to make a good enough impression on the Rifmere Lord, as well, if only for the sake of earning the aforementioned trust.

Her brows perked up at his next words, and within the next moment, Kaira was hit by a wave of ambiguous emotions. A grimace distorted her features - partly in amusement, partly in disgust - at Jonathan’s confusion and the prospect of bedding Alastair. “No, no,” she shook her head and huffed, propping herself up on the edge of the bed. She listened to him babble about Kyel as the scene of their last conversation returned to her mind and she quickly realised how much she had left for interpretation and misunderstanding.

“That is not what the King is after,” Kaira said as she finally stood up. She chuckled weakly and shook her head. “As much as he cares about the perpetuation of his line, he cares about blood more. He would never want to stain it with someone elses. If all else fails, he still has his brother who would take over his reign after he passes.” She closed her eyes for a moment and sighed. “He wants me to perform a ritual to grant his wife the ability to bring a heir into the world. As I said before, healing - and anything within its aura - take a great deal more from the caster than anything else. The ritual is complex and very extensive. There have been very few Volur who came out of it alive, and even those were plagued by awful weakness and ailment after.”

Even the King was hesitant about it. The thought of losing Leon was the only reason that had kept him from doing it already, but he was firmly convinced that she was stronger, merely because the effects of her power were almost more devastating than anyone else’s. “He also needs the powder of a specific stone to finish the ritual,” she added. “Right now, he does not have me, nor the stone, so he is as desperate as one could be, but I stand my ground saying that he would not lower his guard for the sake of taking me back. He would much sooner destroy you first, or find another Volur willing to do his deed.”

It was not something she could ever be certain on, but from what she knew of him, an agreement would be his last resort.


*​

Ser Beor’s room was packed with books, so many that it seemed much smaller than it truly was. It clung to the scent of a dying fire and stayed warm due to the tall and numerous shelves that adorned the walls. When Kyel opened the door, Beor was sat in a tall chair by his desk with an old piece of parchment in his hands filled with strange symbols and sketches. He met the man with a mellow gaze, as if he had been expecting him for quite a while now, but did not rise from his chair to greet him. He judged they were well past the acquaintance stages.

“Lord Kyel,” Cadmus greeted him calmly. He admired the boy - man now - and had grown to know him enough to presume what he was there for.

The Volur. Beor was all too familiar with how much the Northerners valued tradition and despised the sorcerers. It was a well known fact that Kyel had grown with a firmly instilled hatred for the woman’s kind. Still, he was smart enough to understand that she was the best advantage they had - and most likely their only chance of sinking Alastair into the ground once and for all.

“Mm,” the man nodded and set the inscriptions back on the desk. He eyed him up and down and could not help but see the helpless boy in him arise. “That is a battle you ought to hold with yourself, Kyel,” he said. “Your fear for her is rooted in judgement and superstition. You are right to doubt her, and frankly, I would question your wits if you trusted her blindly, we still do not know if she has a different motivation behind her choice to help us.” He brought his arms together in his lap. “She might be the Black Storm, the menacing hidden ace up Alastair’s sleeve, but she is still young and likely just as terrified of her powers as we are.”

Eventually, he pulled himself up on his feet, supporting his weight against the armrest. “Honesty goes a long way, my boy. That is what the rest of us intend to do as well. This morning’s council was enough for today, I reckon, but we are not done digging. Kaira Grimward could truly be a treasure, but in order to find the pearl we must first break the shell.”
 

Will

Will
Shock etched his face when she told him that was not what the King was after. Blood, yes, that made sense. Blood of the kindred was sacred in Winterhold. The Lord and Ladies in Wendlyn were less concerned. Marriage was more about alliances and trade, which he knew to be true with the Crown as well, but only from within the inner circle of families. She would cast a spell to bring a child into this world? A spell that required a complex ritual? Jonathan had heard enough stories to know the danger in this.

“Would there be consequences? Aside from the potential weakness? Creating sentient life from magic… it must be risky and dangerous.” He pointed out. His imagination ran wild, he pictured a striking admission of a small human, white bejewled fingers reaching out. The hand itself was bony, yellow and crab-like stretching to clutch the finger of the King. A small square and gaunt face, with deep set eyes and now eyebrows, an ill combed scanty tuft of hair which seemed a slight metamorphosis of a vulture. If the gods will Alastair to not have a child there was a reason. Jonathan was usually not very superstitious, but this concept seemed dark to him for some reason. “We should probably prepare a defense then, larger than the one we have. Perimeter fire is too dangerous,” Jonathan thought quietly, “I’ll have to think of something else.”

“Tell me about this stone,” he decided. If the King needed this stone, maybe if they could find the stone and destroy it, the King would never be able to produce an heir, and their task would be that much easier. “I don't plan on letting him have you back, nor does the Council or Lord Skovgaard, but I think we all would sleep better at night if we knew he didn’t have this stone either.” Jon decided. He paused another moment though, “Should I be keeping this information from my elders?” He asked her, his question was genuine, no malice or disgust in his voice. If she willed this news to be secret, Jonathan would keep it.

*

Kyel doubted she feared her power the way he did. He was not a cowardly man, but there was something so unsettling in his gut about Kaira. Perhaps it had been the lack of caution he hoped to have around the young woman. Perhaps it truly was just fear. But cowardice bred modish ignorance and obtuseness. So he was determined to figure the girl out, he would not be afraid. He cursed internally at Beor’s metaphor. He would never give him a straight answer, Kyel had to figure it out for himself.

“Perhaps we can make Pelletier report on her, he seems to have his nose already far up her rear end,” Kyel commented sourly. He disliked Jon Pelletier’s jovial attitude in the wake of war. He disliked the boys ability to question everyone and receive ample answers even more. Especially since it was clear the information was made only to him. “Sorry, I will hold my manners better, it is hard being away from the North.” His melancholy tone filtered the room.

“Do you believe he will strike?”Kyel questioned, “I’d like to command my troops here, Wendlyn needs more defense than the North, but I do not want to bring them here should the Crown strike against my home first.” He added. It was an unlikely tactic, but there was still a chance, and Kyel would protect his home and his people first. “If she really is the Black Storm we won’t need numbers,” his eyes cast downward, towards the older man’s fire, “She needs practice and guidance to harness the power you say she possesses. How do we provide for her without Leon?” He found Ser Beor to be more poetical than the social reformer like his counterparts. Kyel noted his colored views of the new moral world, rather than the way his own father saw it in black and white. His father used to call the Wendlyn council enthusiasts in a land of sewage, but he still respected them before his passing, despite his view of them in a lesser class. Kyel appreciated Beor’s aptitude to indulge him when he asked questions, or sought an older man’s words of comfort.
 

peritwinkle

♠️your local Raphael♠️
Helper
Kaira tensed as she reclaimed her seat back on the edge of the bed. Fidgeting with her fingers, she lowered her gaze for a moment, gathering her thoughts. “I have heard horrible things, but not about the babies,” she sighed. “I have read about two cases, in which one Volur turned blind and could barely conjure a gust of wind.” She swallowed in both fear and disgust. She had dedicated the entirety of her life to a talent she might lose if Alastair got his hands on her. “The other one tried to lie, to protect himself. He was smart, but not smarter than his Lord. He was forced to complete it, and it did work, but the sorcerer… desiccated like a corpse.”

It was a pitiable death and perhaps the least preferrable way to find one’s end. Kaira let out a breath as she returned her gaze to Jon and listened to his inquiry about the stone. “I don’t know anything about it yet,” she shrugged. “I was supposed to learn about it as soon as Leon deemed I was stable enough to perform the ritual, but I’ve always had a feeling that he never wanted me to in the first place. He kept me shielded at all times. He would always exaggerate my mistakes, make it seem like I could barely hold a flame burning, but it is only now that I understand he did everything to protect me.”

Leon loved her like a daughter, and most likely regretted the moment he had taken her under his wing, for the sole reason that Alastair’s greed for an heir of his own blood would likely bring her own end. There was no way to create life without a sacrifice, and as the saying went, the ritual started with one sacrifice and often ended with two.

She shook her head at his next question.”No, it is no secret. The people of Windhold all know about this ritual. It is within Alastair’s interest to let them know he wishes to perpetuate his line the right way.” Keeping him from finding what he wanted was a tough sport, and the people of Wendlyn and the North would have to keep their defenses high everywhere. “I know he is unpredictable,” she added, “but my only hope is that if he does get closer to what he needs, I might see it before it happens.”


*​


“Perhaps you could learn a thing or two from Jon,” Beor suggested. “We should all be treading carefully around her. We might have her under our grip but only once she is truly on our side will we start winning this war.” He was glad at least he and Islea were making efforts towards earning the sorceress’s trust, but he could not blame Kyel for his hesitance. It was well founded. She was dangerous and unpredictable, and the fact that she had been unable to stop the fire caused by Jon’s arrows made him wonder how much control she truly had over her abilities.

The old man furrowed his brows in thought at his suggestion. They could always use more men, but Kyel was right - he could not leave his own home unguarded, at least not entirely. He began pacing around the room, cracking his knuckles. “We cannot rely on her just yet,” he judged. “We still need the numbers, at least until we know for sure that she has full autonomy over her abilities, and that she is willing to only use them to our advantage and not against us. We have to keep her on our side, and I’m afraid the only way to do that, Kyel, is to treat her as we would treat any other man or woman fighting for us.”

He stood in silence for a few moments before turning back around to his desk and bending to pull out a sword from a roll of soft leather. Straightening back up, he weighed it in his palms,, letting the light from the fire glimmer on its perfectly polished surface. “This is the sword that she carried to battle,” he said, his gaze following the edge of the blade. “A soldier in the gist of combat would miss it, but if you look closely...” he balanced it carefully, revealing foreign symbols etched into its silver, “you might just think twice about duelling a Volur.”

Before Kyel could reach it, he placed the sword back in its cover and returned to his desk, placing a finger on the parchment he was reading moments before. “We are yet to understand the purpose of those symbols, but we should be wise enough not touch it for now. My old gut tells me they are not there just for decoration.” Then, he bent forward just slightly, forcing Kyel’s eyes to lock on his. “We do not have a second Volur to teach her. Which is why I ask of you that you get near her, offer your support and gather what it is that she needs or struggles with. Understanding a problem is the first step towards solving it, and a callow Volur is of no good to us against Alastair’s.”
 

Will

Will
Jonathan’s face grew more perplexed and serious as she told him about the consequences. Dire, indeed. No knowledge of the stone would be problematic as well, but at least she didn’t want to keep her intentions a secret. “You should make the council aware of your dilemma then,” He told her. “We should also seek out the stone,” he added. Shifting resources from strategy for battle to finding a rock might take some difficulty convincing. He was beginning to understand more and more why the council was seeking Leon over her, despite her power she was still inexperienced. But her mention of their luck since she was not sworn to Alastair boded well for them all.

His next question could have been a mute point, “Any chance you know where to begin in terms of seeking this stone?” If he were a magical rock, where would he hide. Probably at the bottom of a lake or with another magical entity designed to keep him safe. He began searching his brain for that, all he knew of as far as magical locations was myth, bedtime stories and conjecture. A needle in a haystack.

*

The answer was clear, get her on their side. Treat her as an equal. By the gods, how could he treat a Volur as his equal? “I will order troops. A quarter of what the North has to offer until we need more,” he decided. The sword was beautiful silver, strong looking, but the symbols were peculiar. Kyel could only guess that it was enchanted. He’d never seen one before, enchanted weapons were ideas his father and grandfather told him stories about when he was young. Beor asked him to get close to her, and to support her. He wanted Kyel to solve her. “Yes, and thank you Ser Beor, you’ve been of great help. As always,” Kyel added with the smallest hint of a smile.

Kyel left the older man’s chambers, and he sought out his own councilman who had accompanied him. “I want you to return to Ironstone. Locked away are old Volur tomes, Ser Famil knows their location. Bring back as many as you can carry.” He informed him. After his councilman left, Kyel’s own feet took him to the generous library in the center room of Greenwall. It was a massive place, decorated with old wooden shelves that reached the ceilings. Ladders were strung about the place. He had always been fascinated by the access Greenwall gave it’s citizens in regards to this place. Books were donated from all over, and a simple written request would often grant locals the opportunity to come to the castle to read and study the books inside.

Inside the library at a desk in the corner, he found an older man who he knew as the librarian from years prior when they first met. “Master Bright,” Kyel spoke in a low tone behind the man. Bright finished writing whatever he was writing, he was an old and small man. Kyel wondered his history every time he met him. He must have held some form of status in the past to be given such a title, he always wondered if it was due to his small stature he became an academic. However, the name Bright meant nothing to him.

“Lord Skovgaard, a pleasure, always.” his voice shook slightly as he began to stand up. “What are we looking for today?” The old man croaked with a smile.

Kyel offered a small nod back to him. “I was wondering if you had any old tomes, written by Volurs?” He asked.

The old man’s brows raised, “A Northern Lord looking for a spellbook?” He asked with a small chuckle to himself at the irony. “Come, come,” he said. His walk was so slow it was near stalling. Instead of moving to a shelf or a ladder, Bright led Kyel towards a small room in the back of the library. The door had a large lock on the front, which Bright unlocked with the ring of keys at his belt. The next room was smaller than Beor’s chamber. Three bookshelves with glass doors and chains were on each of the walls. “Anything in particular?” Bright asked him.

“Uh,” Kyel looked around, there weren’t many books, but more than he expected. Much larger than the stolen collection at Ironstone. “I suppose small offensive spells?” He asked, unclear if that was even an option.

Bright nodded, moving towards the center bookcase. He pulled out two small tomes, “She should probably start with these,” He winked handing Kyel the books. “You will not be allowed anymore until those are returned to me,” He added in a more serious tone. “Good luck Lord Skovgaard,”

Kyel bid the older man a thank you. He began to walk back to his own chambers, and when he finally did return he sat at a small desk in his room and very carefully opened the first spell tome. He wanted to read a good chunk of each before presenting them to her. Maybe he could be of some help, he also wished to know what he was getting himself into. Thankfully, he could read a decent amount of the text, there were symbols, and some words he did not recognize or understand, but descriptions were clear enough.
 

peritwinkle

♠️your local Raphael♠️
Helper
For a moment, Kaira almost believed that they wished to seek out the stone in order to protect her, but she knew better than to convince herself she was truly needed beyond her abilities as a Volur. She nodded at Jonathan, not because she resonated with his worries, but because she wanted the conversation over already. It was hopeless. Alastair was much better prepared and knew much more than they could hope to gather in a few weeks or months. More importantly, he had Leon, and his knowledge of magical tomes and elements made her own look like a speck of dust in the sand.

“You- we have more alarming things to be concerned about right now,” she said. “I doubt Alastair will have Leon go through this ritual, at least for now. Had he thought of him as ready, he would not have waited for me to learn his craft.” He and Leon both were well aware that Kaira had a greater potential when it came to the use of sorcery, especially dark magic. The mere beginning of the ritual would surely drain Leon of his vigor, if not kill him on the spot. There was a reason she was known as the Black Storm - while she could do good, her feet were already dipped in dark magic.

*​

Beor stood in silence before the fire. His fingers traced the edge of the letter he held in his hands, smudged and dampened, yet still written in the flourished style of Lady Elisif Vannbrek just as easily as she would write an invitation for a formal dance.

He had called for his council already, along with Kyel, Jon and the Volur. The morning was still young and dark, a vibrant purple light peering through the windows, but not enough to overbear the candlelight. As soon as the raven had arrived, a servant had come knocking on the old man’s door, holding a folded piece of paper sealed with the black wax of mourning, bearing the banner of House Vannbrek of Elvgard. Even before breaking it, Cadmus knew what he was about to read. It was the sternness and professionality of it - unlike the vibrant Lady Elisif - that disturbed him more than the contents.

When the door opened and his council walked in, with Ser Bastian in the front, Beor peeked over his shoulder and lifted the letter, holding the piece of black wax between his fingers so they could see it clearly. There was no sign of Kaira yet, but he had no intention of withholding the information from them any longer. “From Elvgard,” the old man said in a clear, booming voice. “ Lord Vannbrek is dead. He was assassinated last night. They are burying him today, at noon.”

His own silence demanded theirs. Bastian clenched his fists and let out a soft breath through his nose, but did not ask any questions. Eventually, Cadmus threw the piece of wax into the fire and turned to face them.

“This was the King’s revenge. The only piece of it, I hope. And he did it as a coward, from his armchair up in a safe, high tower, surrounded by his men. Nobody saw when it happened. Kaelan’s own counsellor found him on the floor of his office, breathless, with a letter in his hand.”
 

Will

Will
Jon stretched his arms as his legs carried him down the hall for this morning’s council meeting. His hands were thrust into the pockets of his deep green velveteen coat. A meeting much earlier than usual, and so Jon’s disinterest was even more prominent than usual. Upon entering the room, the tension in Beor’s stance was enough to wake Jon up for the morning. When the Northern Lord entered with cumulative force, it seemed to set in a mood of mass and momentum. Beor began, holding up a dark piece of wax between his fingers, all parties in the room recognized the seal, but should there be any confusion, Beor clarified.

His next statement caused all eyes to land on him. The assasination of Lord Vannbrek.

“He was a good man,” Islea spoke her respects. “Does the letter say more? And the letter in Kaelan’s hand? What of that?” she asked calmly.

“The King won’t stop there,” it was Jon who was speaking these words. Anger flared within his eyes. “What’s to stop him from going after one of us here? The North?” Jon paused again, his eyes darting from Islea to Beor, “Riftmere is close to the King’s road.” His concern for his home and his brother obvious.

“Alastair won’t kill everyone, you fool,” Kyel said to Jon, wishing he would shut up for one moment, so Beor could finish his details on that matter.

“Who’s to say he won't?” Jon snapped.

“Let Ser Beor finish,” Kyel spoke in a deep tone, chastising the younger Lord.
 

peritwinkle

♠️your local Raphael♠️
Helper
Beor did not feed into Jon’s burst of anger. He remained silent, like the sky before a storm, but grieving was etched clearly on his features. There was no question whether it had been the hand of the King, but to attack the heart of Wendlyn was a plain declaration of war. Whether it was revenge or merely a tactic to weaken them, he did not know, nor did he care. They needed to gather their forces and strike back before the enemy destroyed their ranks and defenses first. Elvgard was their main source of weaponry and armour, not to mention strong, skilled men. With Kaelan down, they were left to pick up the remainders of what had once been a glowing city.

“It says they found black ink on his fingertips,” he continued calmly, “but nothing on the letter itself.” His lips pursed into a fine line in frustration. “They say it was poisoning of sorts, but Lady Elisif made no note about the clean parchment.”

The door opened once again with a creak and Kaira stepped inside the room wrapped up in a thick, woven shawl. Her eyes were dampened and red from just being stirred awake and her hair was now undone and slightly tangled. Beor’s gaze flickered to her like lightning, shadowed by his furrowed brows, and he handed her the letter with two fingers. Hesitantly, the Volur unfolded it and let her eyes run over the carefully inked words of Lady Elisif. Silence fell over the group as Beor watched her expression darken and her fingertips curl around the edges of the parchment as she neared the end. Then, lifting her eyes back to meet his, she seemed to give him a stifled plea of innocence.

“This is the work of a Volur, not of a paid assassin,” Kaira told him. “This is dark magic… Revenge against you for taking me. You must let him know I am alive before he takes any more lives.”

“If he believes you are dead he will find no purpose in going out if his own way to torment us,” Beor said as he began to slowly pace around the room. “Revealing the truth would only fill him with more spite and violent ideas. We must keep you hidden until we are ready to strike back.”

Kaira knew Beor was right, but her gut told her this was not the sole nuance to his threat. Would Leon try to convince him that they had killed her, or would he tug at his sleeve to try to bring her back? “We have to go there,” she concluded. “I have to see the letter for myself… And Lord Vannbrek,” she paused, biting her lip. “Perhaps we can delay the burial for another day. It is not within Alastair’s style to hit without leaving a message.”

“The raven won’t reach Elvgard fast enough to postpone the ceremony,” Bastian chimed in. “But perhaps we could delay the cleaning of the scene.” He looked towards Beor, to see that the man considered the same. The older man nodded and turned back towards the fire.

“Ready our horses. You shall stay here, watch over Greenwall in my name,” he said to Bastian. “I would stay myself, but Lady Elisif is an old friend. She would never forgive me if I did not come.”

“Will she let me see it?” Kaira asked, crossing her arms.

“Oh, it is within her interest to. If she wants to avenge her husband’s death, that is.” He looked over to her with a scrutinizing glare. “So long as you have disencumbered your shoulders from the King’s will.”
 

Will

Will
Islea led the small party they traveled with on horseback. She remained poised throughout the day and night, riding strong and keeping an aggressive pace for them to arrive in a timely manner. Islea wished to observe the matter in Elvgard, she wanted to note the manners of the young girl they brought with them as well as Elisif’s. She found herself dwelling on the friendship Beor held with the late Lord and his wife. Islea had much respect for the pair, an excellent Lord and lady to lead their land, truly. Islea could never keep up with their jovial drinking habits, though. She smiled gently at the thought, a little dazed by the sudden rise of the morning light over the land.

Jon stopped himself from nodding off for nearly the hundredth time that evening. Surely Kaira was more tired than him, but as he glanced toward her she seemed more put together than he. Riding the entire day and night was rare unless the circumstances were dire. Without the adrenaline Jon was finding it near impossible to stay awake. In the distance he could see it, Elvgard. He wondered what would happen in the wake of Kaelan’s death. He hadn’t been here in many years, since he was first sent to Wendlyn. The day was brinking, but the clouded sky shielded the sun. The sky was so grey. The whole world seemed grey this morning. Everywhere he looked grey, even the Northern Lord's eyes. He could see dejection in his eyes. Seemed to be in all of their eyes that morning.

He tried to distract himself now as they approached the castle walls. He remembered the warmth of the baths in Elvgard. The castle was built atop hot springs, and so warm water flowed through the base of the keep, it was always a more comfortable temperature there he recalled. They moved through the second set of doors from the second wall, larger than the prior. Elvgard’s defense was the most in all of their land, double built walls to protect from outsiders.

Kyel looked over the large stone walls, and massive entrance doors of the castle. The last time he stepped foot within those walls it was beside his father. Had it truly been that long? Despite how massive the castle was, it felt smaller to him. Now they all were guests, but he decided he would remain close by Kaira’s side. She was here to investigate the matter at hand, surely there was some danger in that. Along with danger there was also suspicion of what this meant. If she knew it to be Leon’s work, he wondered if she would protect his master over the truth.
 

peritwinkle

♠️your local Raphael♠️
Helper
Kaira’s eyes scoured the horizon against the bright light of the rising sun. The air was chilly and damp and the grass was coated in a thin layer of frost that made everything glimmer as though it were made of silver.

She had never been that far away from Yllevad. The concept of visiting another castle was still foreign to her, let alone one indwelled by the enemy. Elvgard was truly a beauty - standing tall and prideful, surrounded by solid stone walls, most covered in ivy just like Greenwall. The weather was much kinder there; in Yllevad, the only green one saw in colder months was pine, and perhaps some patches of grass wherever nature could peek through from between the cobblestones. Wendlyn, however, seemed to have been build around nature, in a way that did not disturb its rapture, but merely highlighted it. The forest surrounding the city, lurking from farther away, was stalky and dense, but still allowed rays of sun to shine through and melt the hoar off its soil, whereas back home, a hunter could hardly tell the time of day.

As they neared the stronghold, shouts boomed in the distance, likely calling for the gates to be opened before their visitors. Ser Cadmus Beor claimed his place in the front of the group, before Islea, and as the doors creaked and pulled back, a tall, slender figure appeared between them, surrounded by a flock of heavily armed guards - 4 atop war steeds and six flocked around her on foot, with their grips firm on their swords. Still, the closer they got, the more Kaira could see of the woman, and could tell that she was not in the least nervous about her visitors, and that the show of armor and blades was merely an exhibit of power.

Lady Elisif was a woman well in her thirties, but still carried a childish youth in her emerald eyes. She was pale, barely freckled, with long, braided golden locks and a slim figure. She wore a green cape, similar in shade to her eyes, but the dress beneath it was black, embroidered with the glorious Vannbrek stag. She greeted them with her hands protectively clutched around her belly and a mellow smile hiding an undeniable grief. Beor was the first to dismount before her and, as his feet touched the ground, the woman approached him with her right hand lifted towards him. The old knight took it and pressed a kiss to her knuckles, which earned a brief but genuine simper from the woman.

“Thank you for coming, Cadmus,” the woman spoke. Her voice was low and gentle, nurturing. She stretched out her fingers over her belly as she looked behind him. “Thank you all for coming. You must have had a long journey, so please, follow me. I shall -”

“No, Elisif,” Beor said. “You have waited too long already. If you’ve got my letter… It would be best if the our Volur saw the scene as soon as possible. We have plenty of time to rest afterwards.” He glanced back towards the group, then returned his eyes to her. “Lady Islea, whom you already know, Lord Skovgaard and Lord Pelletier, the youngest…”

“Oh, I know them,” Elisif smiled. “They’ve grown. I remember seeing Lord Skovgaard when I was younger and my family was just setting me up with Kaelan. I remember his charm, still.” She took in a deep breath as her eyes fell on Kaira. “And you are?”

Kaira dismounted and let one of the guards take away her mount. She bent forward in a small curtsy and nodded. “Kaira Grimward, my Lady. The Volur in question.”

“Ah! Grimward,” she frowned slightly, which made Kaira wonder if she had heard of her name before. “Very well, please… Uh… Follow me, then. I will take you to Kaelan’s office.”

Beor handed off his own steed and gestured for those behind to follow him through the courtyard and into the castle. The sun had risen by that time, engulfing the stronghold in a warm, crimson light. They followed Lady Elisif into her home, strangely enough colder than the air outside, and much darker than Greenwall, with black curtains drawn to cover almost every window and framing every door. It was an eerie, weighty feeling walking through the corridors, as if the ghost of the late Lord were walking by their side then, as well. It was particularly difficult for Kaira to shake off the feeling of cold and death that nipped at her skin. The soul who had died there had not yet found peace with his end, she could feel it.

“A letter arrived two nights ago with the Daeron sigil, meant for my late husband,” she spoke calmly as she walked. “He asked to open it in silence, so his advisor let him. An hour later, when he would not answer his cries from the other side of the door, he was forced to barge in… To find Kaelan pale and breathless on the floor, the letter in his hand and his fingers black, necrotic.”

Eventually, she stopped before a tall door and intertwined her hands at the front and her eyes now menacingly fixated on Kaira. “The letter was blank. Our cleric believes it was cursed.”
 

Will

Will
The very corner of Kyel’s lips turned upward upon the sight of Lady Elisif, even in her mourning states he would never forget the feeling of the first time he looked into those eyes. It was an old memory, with a fleeing feeling, sharing a dance or two at parties and events they both found themselves at was all it ever really was. He did recall a time when they pair of them snuck off alone to chat under the moon, but never anything more. She was always spoken for.

Her mannerisms informed them that the situation was even more dire than they could have thought. Cadmus wasted no time at all, he suggested they assess the scene immediately. Kyel watched as the others handed off their horses and he did as well, wishing in that moment he had brought Felix on their trip. He did note Lady Elisif’s reaction to Kaira’s surname, he would ask her about that later.

Following inside, the once warm castle was cold and dark. Curtains were drawn and Kyel had never witnessed Elvgard so bleak. He felt a twist within his gut, for Elisif and Kaelan were truly an excellent Lord and Lady. They ruled firmly, and yet friendly over Wendlyn. Never once did they dispute Kyel’s Northern ways. Their acceptance was inspiring, and for a brief moment he thought of abandoning his own mission, to ensure Elisif received proper care here, should her situation turn either way. A son would mean she would always have acceptance in Elvgard, but advisors would try and pull the child from her to influence him. But a daughter would bring forth a difficult question, what to do with the ladies? They would always have a home in the castle no doubt, but that path would put them second to whomever came forward to rule in Kaelan’s stead. Kaelan would have never stood for either acts.

Kyel realized his own efforts with the Volur were far more important. Freedom would benefit the Lady and her child far more than the forceful hand of a Northerner questioning the integrity of every advisor and guard that Kaelan set in place. She had people here who cared for her, Kyel could tell. She would be safe, and should she not, he would find it in his power to give her that strength some other way. Kyel would inform her that her and her child should always have a home in the North, and he assumed Greenwall too, should Elvgard begin to feel unsafe.

“Kaira, based on this information is there any indication of the particular curse in this case?” Islea questioned. “Or any indication of who specifically may have set this curse?” Islea’s words were careful, and gentle as the scene was quite morbid, and the controlled tone in Elisif’s voice was heartbreaking.

Jon could hardly fixate on the scene. Since he arrived his eyes laid over the woman years older than him. Her own eyes were the most striking he had ever seen, and that hair was something else. He could have sworn right then if his wife was even half as beautiful as this woman he would be satisfied until the end of his life. Her composure was shocking, and Jon could not help but to admire her strength.

Jon’s eyes only left the figure of Lady Elisif when he watched the Northern Lord move to stand beside Kaira, Jon’s eyebrow lifted at the protective mannerisms the older man showcased for the younger woman. “She will figure it out,” Kyel spoke, his eyes casting downward to Kaira. Jon found it difficult to place if the Northerners' words were a command to Kaira, or reassurance to Lady Elisif to show trust in the Volur.
 

peritwinkle

♠️your local Raphael♠️
Helper
Kaira has listened attentively to Elisif’s words, trying to read hidden clues between the lines. The expression on her face was solemn and her voice was stern, no shadow of faltering or weakness, but Kaira was too good of a friend with sorrow to know what the older woman truly felt. She regretted the loss of her family every passing day, and at night, she could still hear her mother scream her name and her brother’s in the fire. Only a strong, well-seasoned woman that could put up with such pain in silence, and not let a sliver of her skin show from beneath her armour.

At Islea’s question, Elisif leaned in to crack the door open and stepped to the side. “Do what you Volurs do best,” she said quietly, looking Kaira straight in the eye, then resumed her position with her hands wrapped protectively around her pregnant belly. It was clear to her then that she would be left to go in alone, which only made the sinking feeling in her gut more intense. She was not in the least afraid of anything within the castle, let alone the spirit of a dead man, but someone of her nature could never truly be at ease in the presence of the dead. She nodded, and pushing her cape behind her, she carefully stepped into the room.

The air was dark and musky inside, brisk, as if none had dared to enter in years. The curtains had been drawn, the beautiful green of the Vannbrek banner now overshadowed by black fabric that rippled with every gush of wind blowing through the cracked windows. The room was framed by tall bookshelves brimming with dictionaries, tomes, documents, old and new written works, all seemingly organized by genre and purpose. To the left, there was a sturdy desk with a tall, green velvet chair just slightly pushed out of place. A handful of letters had been carefully grouped and tied with ribbon on the edge of the table, with the exception of one, left untouched right in the middle.

Kaira contemplated the sight for a brief moment. If the man had fallen dead while reading the letter, the piece of paper would have been on the floor by his head. Someone either too brave or mindless had picked it up and placed it there for her, which meant it had been cursed with a one-time spell, like her own sword which she carried into battle. She walked towards it slowly, the current slipping from beneath the curtains blowing her cape behind her. “Imprecatius revelum æider,” she canted in a whisper, “Imprecatius deiread…

As she opened her eyes again, the light in the room had shifted and the lampads set on either side of the desk caught ablaze. The letter on the desk was no long a blank piece of parchment, as ink began to reveal itself slowly, as if an unseen hand were writing before her.


And yet the Serpent bowed and thought:
‘Go and fight, do as you ought,
for I’m too old and weak to walk behind your steps.’​

Leon. Kaira knew the poem all too well. The old man had taught her to recite The Serpent in His Lair when she was little, barely old enough to read a book by herself. The curse had hit its target, but it seemed the old Volur knew - or hoped - she would come to see it. Likely done behind Alastair’s back, as well, but he would never know. It took a revealing spell to read it, and even then, she was the only one who knew how to decipher it.

He did not want her to come back.

Within a blink, the handwriting was gone and the flames died out with it. Kaira exhaled, feeling her blood trickle through her veins and freeze in the soles of her feet. Leon had never had a choice. His vow to Alastair had already been sealed, and he was too brave of a man to die for the sake of purity. From where he stood, he wanted to fight to pull the Kingdom of Valera back into the light, and without Kaira on the other side of the battlefield, Alastair’s hand would have been more weighty. She was their only chance of changing the odds.

When she stepped outside, the first pair of eyes that fell on her was Beor’s. He seemed to analyse her, read her like an open book , but remained silent and waited for her edict. Kaira turned to Elisif, whose poise seemed to be on the verge of breaking. “I despise being the bearer of news, but you need to find your peace,” she said. “Your husband, Lord Kaelan, was cursed by the King’s Volur. It is a declaration of war, signed by Alastair, but written by the man who was my mentor for seventeen years.”

Lady Vannbrek’s expression did not change. She looked the girl in the eye and nodded in gratitude. “Nothing on the letter?” she asked.

“Nothing,” Kaira replied. Nothing meant for you, at least. “If you’d ask me, I think it is time you actively join the revolution instead of just shipping supplies to defend Wendlyn. This time around you have me, and I am the only chance you’ve got against the Daerons.”
 
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Will

Will
Kyel’s eyes followed Kaira as she moved into Kaelan’s office. His gut wishing to push him forward and follow her inside, should there be any unwanted threats within. He stood his ground with the others, silently waiting for the young woman to finish her investigation. Instead of searching the others in effort to gauge their reaction to the current events at hand, he kept his gaze on the door, any noise of upset come forth he could act quickly.

How peculiar the realities of his life seemed to hang upon this young Volur. Without an audience he would have walked up and down the corridor the group stood within, needing space for his mind to fluctuate over the strange circumstances in their laps. Before these events the most prudent thing in the world was the discussions of suitors and the sure defense Ironstone held. He was the lord of the entire North, and made decisions for the whole land. Trusting her so blindly was against everything he believed, and yet he found himself wanting to trust her. Why was he forced to look at life in the light of his father’s mind?

When the door opened and she whose presence he was longing for entered, betrayal climbed within himself suddenly. Mysteriously he was in a state of tremor and distrust, different from the distrust he felt towards her before, because now he did not trust himself. Miss Grimward, simple as she stood there before them all, seemed more mature than usual. There was no mystery and no game, only when she declared there was nothing else in the room to be found. He could not be so sure of her words and her commitment there was nothing else there. But for now, Kyel must accept the fact with the others; war, this act was a declaration of war.

Jon’s stomach erupted, a low gurgle filling the silence left within the room. Jon turned deliberately, offering a look of apologies to the Lady of the castle. “Perhaps we shall discuss this looming war over some breakfast,” he spoke glancing between the elders.

At the appropriate moment the group was escorted away by stewards to their rooms so they could change for a meal. Kyel stepped forward to Elisif, taking a pardonable liberty and holding out his arm to her as the rest of the group disbanded. He feared there would be seldom time for the pair of them to chat alone, or at least without the ears of Cadmus. “May I walk you to your chambers?” He offered.

As the pair moved down the dark hallways of her home, Kyel kept his eyes forward, his silence was too long, but he truly did not know where to begin. His hand came over hers on his arm a moment, even her fingers were chilled, “I am deeply sorry for your loss,” he began, “Kaelan was a good man. One of the best in all of Wendlyn, in all of Valera. In fact I think only Cadmus’ wisdom could have combated his. Kaelan won in humor though,” Kyel offered with a sad smile and a wink. “Elisif, I know this is out of place, but I cannot help myself, you know you have friends in the North. Should you ever need anything, I urge you not to hesitate to ask.” His eyes swept over her lovely green iris’.
 

peritwinkle

♠️your local Raphael♠️
Helper
The Volur had told Elisif everything she needed to hear - the confirmation that it had been, indeed, the dirty and unfair hand of Alastair’s sorcerer who had brought Kaelan his end. Her jsaw tensed briefly; there was no reason to release her anger against the woman. She knew her mother. She would want to ask of her soon, perhaps when they were all no longer tired and famished. Still, knowing where she once belonged, she could not help but fear Kaira’s true intentions for the time being. Frankly, she doubted she could ever trust someone too easily again.

As soon as Lord Pelletier mentioned breakfast, Elisif snapped out of her mind palace and gestured for the guards to escort them towards the dining hall. “Please,” she said, “I shall join you swiftly. I need to tend to some morning duties first.” It was still early and their arrival had come sooner than expected. She had barely gotten an hour of sleep that night, and none the night before, but somehow, she was still holding herself well on her feet.

She saw Kyel’s arm extend towards her from the corner of her eyes, and as the group walked away down the corridor, she took it without hesitation and allowed him to escort her. He knew the castle all too well, and he also knew where her room, the one she had once shared with her late husband. The weight of his hand over hers still felt the same, and the scent of his skin brought back far too many memories of late night conversations and longing dances. She had loved Kaelan, and still did, but Kyel was her first. Even younger by a couple of years, he was imposing and strong, the pride of the North.

“My husband was an exquisite man, indeed,” she agreed softly. “He also offered me a home, a safe one. Elvgard is the safest place I can be.” She had never thought of leaving since his death. She would raise her son or daughter there, and take him or her to the countryside to visit her family whenever she had the chance. “But in war, no place is safe anymore.” She looked up to catch his gaze as they reached the door to her room, and breaking off from his side, she placed a palm on his shoulder. “But thank you, Kyel. I know I can always confide in you. If I have a son, I know exactly who will teach him to wield a sword best. And if I have a daughter…” She smirked softly and canted her head. “She will wield a bow, like myself. But you’d make a good target.” She patted him playfully on his chest.

*​

The courtyard was quiet that evening, merely a few passing guards disturbing the moonlit garden in their night patrol. Kaira watched from the tall window of her room - one she was surprised Elisif was willing to spare for the likes of her. It was large and mostly empty, with the exception of a glorious canopy bed decorated with an embroidered violet duvet, a slender bookshelf brimming with historical novels and an ottoman by the window next to the fire. The chamber itself smelled of jasmine and freshly washed sheets, likely laid down in expectation of their arrival. A servant had come in to bring her a dark violet sleeping robe and laid it on the bed, which Kaira had happily changed into from the dirty travel clothing and muddy boots.

She had found her sword wrapped up in leather and placed on her bedside the morning before leaving for Elvgard, likely a gift of trust from Ser Beor which she had not yet gotten the chance to thank him for. She held it in her hands then, weighing it, as if checking if it were a mere replica instead of the original. The symbols etched in its steel glimmered in the firelight, a lien of its authenticity, not spent on any unlucky soul just yet. The thought of it made it all the more weighty in her arms. It would only take a dash, and…

Clink.

The tip of the steel blade grazed the surface of the stone hearth. Kaira spinned it in her hand and slashed again, this time careful enough to miss, so as to keep the sharpness of the blade. Another spin, another twist, before she lowered it and assessed the damage. Two fallen. One missed, but by so little. She needed to learn to parry more than attack, but she trusted her sword. If she moved fast enough, the enemy would not even get the chance to hit her before bleeding into the ground. She could hear Leon scold her for her irresponsibility, before redoubling his hostility just to prove her wrong.

She leaned towards the cup of whiskey cocoa she had left on the window sill and took a big gulp to refresh herself before the second round. He would have wanted her to go into defense, so she did. It all came far too easily when she was not in the heat of the moment, but focused, with her mind clear and free of distractions, when she did not need to think of spells and moves alike to keep herself and her side of the battlefield alive. What had he thought, seeing her fall on the ground as white smoke surrounded her? Did he believe she was alive, or was it but a frail hope? Had he seen her in a vision, fighting alongside Wendlyn and the North?

What would he do once they were faced against eachother?
 

Will

Will
Kyel parted ways with Elisif, a sad smile still on his lips. The only woman to ever elicit such emotion from banter with him. The first person he was ever comfortable enough to open up to, and whom he was interested in listening to. Their friendship would always remain, and upon her comments Kyel would make it a point to visit her and her child often. After all, the young Lady or Lord to be must hear tales of their father from a Northern point of view.

Kyel’s attention could not be weaned from the Volur throughout the day. Lord Pellitiers insistent questions during breakfast proved a headache he would be grateful to escape. And his own wandering of the castle was slow, but left for his mind to wander. And each time it would wander to her. He could not escape the soiling inferences of his mind, she had held back before, in fact, she had lied. There was something in that office chamber she neglected to tell them about.

As soon as he could, after returning from his brief visit to the spring baths, his dark hair still wet from his time there. He wore a light coat, no waistcoat, and despite him smelling as though he should be refreshed, his face looked worn and wizened with thought. An importunate knock came on the door of her dedicated chambers. At this point Kyel kept his respectful silence other than his knock. He thought of what he might say to her, calling her a liar was not worthy. Accusing her of such would shut her out immediately. He had to leave his wave of superiority to get her to open up, after all she had such a high opinion of him, he thought in mocking.

When the door opened, so did his mouth as if to announce himself or his intentions, but again, in silence, his mouth closed. He should have prepared his words before coming to her door. His eyes traveled over her a moment, but from the moonlight of her large window at the other end of her room, a reflection from her sword cast onto him. His eyes darted to the sword and then back to her. His jaw tensing for only a moment before moving inside without permission. “That is the sword Ser Beor showed me,” he said. Truthfully he was shocked Cadmus returned the weapon to her. He was almost certain the man had told him to be wary of it’s power.

Kyel could not help himself, a swordsman at heart, he approached the blade, he was extremely careful to keep an acceptable distance from it though, and he made no move to touch the beast either. “It is enchanted,” he said, it wasn’t a question, he thought the same thing when Beor showed him, and even then he had no doubt.

Just as soon as Kyel had approached the sword he made his way towards the large window. He’d stayed in this room before. He appreciated this one, the light from the night was a blessing to look at, especially on a night with a moon like this. The Lord and Lady of Elvgard always gave him a new room each stay he had in the castle, this had always been a favorite. His hand moved to touch the edge of the large window, he wondered if Elisif had any information on Kaira. He hadn’t asked earlier, he’d been so distracted. He wondered why she gifted the young girl with such a beautiful chamber. Perhaps it was a thank you for closure, perhaps something else.

He hoped Kaira wouldn’t see his movement for what it truly was, a distraction. He still did not know how to ask the question he so desired. How could he push her to open up to him? His gaze shifted to the sword again. Maybe all he needed was a conversation, “It is a beautiful sword,” he informed her, “I will ask it’s name, rather than what it’s enchantment is, should you need it for defense,” He joked dryly.
 

peritwinkle

♠️your local Raphael♠️
Helper
The knock on the door sent a shiver through Kaira’s arm, making her instinctively grip the sword harder. She shot her eyes towards it and it cracked open, allowing the tall figure if Lord Skovgaard to peek through from the dark hallway. Kaira’s shoulders relaxed and she lowered the blade, taking a step to the side to face him. He looked weary, his hair still damp likely from a recent bath, and his coat wrapped around his body in a haste. She, herself, was not particularly presentable either, but she liked to believe that she did not looked quite as washed out as he did.

“He stole it from me,” Kaira said plainly as she watched him pace closer to her, then towards the window. She would have asked him for it had he not made the step to return it beforehand. She could tell the admiration in his tone for the blade was genuine, but knew the intentions behind his visit were likely not to talk about her weapon.

His try at cracking a joke earned a dry smile from her. She ran a finger over its surface, grazing the engraving with the tip of her nail. “It’s a curse, not an enchantment,” she corrected him. “I suppose you’re lucky you haven’t discovered what it does yet.” Kaira took a slow step towards him, the silk of her robe rippling over her figure. It looked ever prettier under the moonlight, but then again, everything did. Even Kyel’s eyes did not seem quite as bitter, yet perhaps that was just as much an effect of the whiskey cocoa.

“Every Volur carries one into battle, for their own protection. It doesn’t have a name. In Yllevad, it’s not common practice considering how we dehumanize soldiers,” she sighed, “let alone their blades.” The only soldier worth mourning was the Volur. Alastair did not care about the wellbeing of his men, and they did not care for his affection. They only sought to provide for their families, and joining the army was the best paid job in the whole of Windhold. “It is cursed so that the first sliver of flesh it cuts, kills on the spot,” she explain, now trailing the edge of the blade. “It only works once, before losing all its glory and becoming just a plain, steel sword. Which is why we refrain from using it unless it’s absolutely necessary.”

Lowering it, Kaira locked her eyes on Kyel. “There is always a great price for every curse. Nature finds its balance. This kind of curse takes its toll on you for a good few hours, otherwise it would be too easy. I could just curse every sword there is and have the enemy fall to their graves from the smallest papercut.” She could only imagine what Leon had lost with the assassination of Lord Vannbrek. The man was strong and seasoned - he could handle it - but had she been in his place… The curse would have darkened her mind.

“But if I were to name it, I would name it after my mother,” she shrugged lightly. “Yrsa.” Perhaps, if she once had a daughter, she would name it a variant of that name. Or a son, her brother’s - Nikolai. The thought had not graced her mind until then; royal Volur were not allowed to marry or have a family, and if they did beforehand, they would have to forsake it before swearing their allegiance to the King. She did not even know Leon’s last name, and after so many years, she believed the man might have forgotten it too.

When her eyes met his again, she remembered the way Elisif had spoken about him and, for a moment, she was tempted to ask him about it, but knew better than to believe he would ever let his guard down around her. She knew what he thought of her. She could see the way he fought off the disgust in his tone. She was unwanted, so she remained in her place, waiting for him to reveal the true purpose of his visit.
 

Will

Will
His eyes followed her finger over the blade, she moved towards him explaining what the swords curse was. His gaze now shifting over her body realizing the state in which he caught her in. She walked in her usual movements, and yet in the silk every line in her figure and draper fell in gentle attractive curves. It was normal nightwear, but he hadn't really noticed as he barged in, and now it seemed to be most of what he noticed. Kyel thought she had never looked so lovely before; her body, her long white throat, the curves of her cheek and chin were set off to perfection by the simplicity of her silk dress.

Her explanation of the attitude towards soldiers and swords and battle was morbid. He expected no less from Alastair, still a pity men couldn’t find the fun to provide their sword a name. Her reveal of the balance of nature was interesting too. This bit of information meant Leon would pay a price for his curse on Lord Vannbrek. A smile came to his lips when she said she would name it after her mother, he thought to explain to her this was not really how the naming of notable swords went, but her intentions were endearing, so he did not feel the need.

Many in the North knew of him, and his own blade, ‘Lightbane’. Even folks who had only seen him on occasion knew the story of his first battle. Middle of the day on the summer solstice, the day his father deemed him a man. Then presented to the crowd that day, ordinary people cheering as they returned from battle, a new light to see their future Lord in. A part of exclusive society Kyel never knew existed, where some felt disgust at the death of battle, while others saw strength in the same judgement.

“Yrsa,” he spoke quietly, he stepped forward toward Kaira. His eyes stayed steadily on hers, she had said it killed when it broke skin. His heart raced as his eyes tore from hers down to the blade. “May I?” He whispered the question. He took the sword in his hands, feeling the cool blade against his skin, this was precisely what Kyel had always been unable to do. After his father had gone, bitter tears rarely came, and his chest rose and fell slowly, his own finger tracing over the symbols. His heart justified that the trouble of understanding her was difficult because she was young, and a Volur. Not that now, some visions of his own happiness for himself were at times mixed with evil. No, he could still imagine himself tasting the fruits of life without thinking their core rotten. His general disenchantment with the world, with himself felt smaller as he held this sword. It’s power was intense, one false move and he was dead.

He carefully handed the sword back to her, “Every thought seems attainable when you can hold death in your hand,” His eyes met hers again. “Expectations fade away , and the ideas of remarkable wonder and possibilities force their will upon you.” His own sword in his hand hardly fitted this upon him. Still he wondered Kaira’s feelings when she held it, what happened to her, what would she feel, would she expose her thoughts to him? Or keep them to herself? His eyes glanced upon her lovely lips and then her eyes and finally her majestic figure. Here in the moonlight she seemed now to have no magic in her.

He took a step back, “I am not fond of what is likely, it’s dull,” He said now. He knew she loved her master more than anything else in the world, and he loved her just as dearly. “We cannot shy from what goes on,” he began, “Be as cross with me as you like, but please do not treat me with indifference through this process.” He was asking her. “You’re smart, every word you speak is calculated. I know asking for your thoughts is penetrable to your privacy, but I believe you can lead us to victory.” He knew she had thoughts, plans, feelings, he wanted to know them.
 

peritwinkle

♠️your local Raphael♠️
Helper
As the sword left her hands, Kaira felt her chest tighten for a brief moment, before she reminded herself that Kyel was likely a better swordsman than she was. Her eyes remained locked on his fingers, as if calculating their distance from the sharp edge. “This is mere steel, as a royal Volur I would have received my own silver sword after swearing my allegiance to the King,” she explained as he held it. “Enchantments and curses are twice as powerful on noble metals.” Her own would be much easier to wield, as well, for the blacksmith would have forged it with her own fighting style and preferences in mind.

Once the sword was returned to her, she stepped back towards the bed and pushed it back into the leather wrappings. It was true that she had never truly feared for her life until the day of the last battle. Her own curse could not harm her, and she had never been faced against a Volur herself. The people of Wendlyn and the North were more traditional, and their refusal to embrace magic made them all the more vulnerable and weak before people like Alastair, who knew how to make use of every resource and cared far too little for the consequences.

Her neck tensed at his conjecture. She rested her eyes on the uncovered hilt of the sword for a brief moment, before straightening her back and turning to look at him. “So this is why you’re here,” she ruled, a slight shadow forming over her eyes. He had read her well through her broken poise; she could only hope that Elisif had not been quite as sharp as him. “I did see something, if that’s what you wished to know. The letter was meant for me - not the curse, but the message inside. It is why nobody could read it.”

She took two steps towards him, her arms relaxed by either sides of her hips. “It was an old poem that Leon taught me to recite when I was little. I believe he wants me to side with you. How he knew I would see it, I don’t know, but he took no chances and hid it from everyone else.” A vision or a logical deduction. He had plenty of time for the latter now that he no longer had an apprentice to occupy his time. Kaira wondered how he felt, if he was as empty as she, and as scared about the prospect of facing one another as she was. “I could not tell Lady Vannbrek right away. I doubt she would trust me if she knew I care for the man who assassinated her husband.”

Technically, it had been Alastair’s order, but Leon had pushed the dagger nonetheless.

Kaira contemplated in silence for a moment, gaze lost somewhere behind him, before finding him again. “Do you truly regret the death of her husband?” she asked sincerely. “I saw the way you look at her. She could be your key to secure an official allegiance between the North and the West, not just amity.” On paper, Wendlyn and the North fought each for their own against Windhold, with a good portion of Windhold stuck in fearful neutrality. “I might not know a thing about marriage, but I know you need more allies, because Elvgard and Greenwall are not enough.”

If Elisif was smart and persuasive though, she could drag her own maiden name into this fight without any blood alliance. They had the numbers that they very much needed, and the wood to build ships to fight Alastair’s own at sea. It was not enough, still, against his massive empire, but it was better than what they had right then.
 
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Will

Will
At least she could configure his reasoning without him being so blunt. This would make for easier conversation. His gaze tightened as she said the letter was for her, and his eyes only darted downward as she moved towards him. Through the explanation of a poem, a cipher meant only for her. His eyes met hers again, Kyel did find respect in the message, and he saw no indication she was lying to him.

His own eyes filtered to the wall behind her as he thought about Leon having to kill at the King’s request. What a horrible duty to have to serve. But her next question caused his brows to lift, he searched her face for any lack of seriousness. Finally he smiled, and shook his head letting out a light chuckle, “No,” he told her. He realized the true seriousness in her question and he took his joking nature away, “Kaelan’s death was tragic. And I do regret it’s occurrence.” he corrected himself.

His face softened slightly, she was quite sharp. “She is not the key to secure allegiance between the North and the West.” He spoke carefully. “Elvgard is already an ally, you’re right, would be more beneficial to marry another,” he decided, his tone seeming more annoyed by the thought than anything else. “Elisif is beautiful, kind, and I’ve never met a woman with humor quite like hers,” he smiled turning his head to the window now. Perhaps they were foolish over the years, they did allow hints of flirtations to continue even with Kaelan’s presence, but nothing more than banter. “She was the first woman I ever loved. I was a child then though,” he told Kaira honestly. “So was she. And she was promised to this Castle, to Kaelan, before I could walk.” His gaze returned to the Volur, wondering what she made of this confession, “We knew what it was, all it could ever be, I think we thought we were indestructible then. Still it was nice to be with her when we could. She was good at helping me forget.” his eyes cast downward to his own hands for a moment.

When his gaze lifted to hers again, another hint of a smile breached his lips, “Thank you, for sharing with me the message Leon sent you,” he told her. He couldn’t help his next question, she made him so curious, “I must ask, why trust me with this information?” He prodded, “I am grateful, but I had assumed your trust lay ultimately with Ser Beor, or even Lord Pelleitier,” he nearly rolled his eyes at the second name.
 

peritwinkle

♠️your local Raphael♠️
Helper
Kyel was right, marrying Elisif might be a waste if she was willing to join the rebellion against Windhold without any political promises. Still, Kaira could not shake off the thought of the two of them, a perfect match at the wrong time. It was envy that twisted her heart then, knowing what she had missed while being locked away in the castle at Yllevad, unable to even dream of such an adventure. In that moment, as she listened to him speak, Kaira found herself craving for someone to speak of her the same way. To see behind her menacing facade.

She took in a deep breath at the change of subject and averted her eyes to the ground. “I don’t know, it must be the whiskey cocoa,” she said quickly and took a few steps back to lean against the pole supporting the canopy. She crossed her arms to her chest and gestured with her head toward the half empty cup. “You can try, it’s good, I promise. Gets you to open up, I suppose.” She sighed again. “I want you to trust me, Kyel, just as much as Ser Beor or Lord Pelletier. I was fighting on the other side of the battlefield and, suddenly, I wake up in a foreign place, with foreign people, who want me to turn against everything I’ve ever known, but keep their daggers behind my back in case I misstep.”

It felt almost impossible to explain what went through her head right then. From what he knew of him so far, Lord Skovgaard was a simple man, and his decisions were either black or white. She doubted he would ever understand feeling pity and hatred for the same man. “Alastair protected me,” she murmured. “He was vile and reckless, but he did what he had to do to keep me by his side. To keep me hanging from a string at all times. He knew I never loved him and could never forgive him for retreating safely in his golden palace while my family was burning alive, and yet he gave me a home, an education, a chance at life without expecting gratitude in return. He only wanted my loyalty. You were just quicker in snatching me away before he could claim it.”

She felt like even the smallest of decisions could drastically tip the balance. She was treading on thin ice, among people she did not know, people who would not unconditionally protect her like Leon did, or who prized her like Alastair. “You all fear me, and I do want to be feared. But not by you. Not by my allies. And your coldness towards me tells me that we are still not even that. I am but a confiscated weapon.”
 

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