Numerous candidates have been brought forth to fill the ranks of the new Queen's guard. Those with the most experience and proven loyalty through her mother's reign for the most part kept their slots - leaving a single one up to personal preference. The candidates being put forth are both promoted via their renown amongst the nobility and the common people.
Queen Josephina Gisele Titanos must make the right decision for the people of Illéa even if some of the noble houses that have begun to swarm the young orphaned queen may not agree with her choices. With most of her actions being kept from public eye, her decision to make Ser Aiden Morrow the final member of her elite guards is highly scrutinized. Having previously been believed to be nothing more than a passing joke amongst the [i proper] knights, some of the other knights urged against Queen Josephina from finalizing her choice and alerting the world who her newest guard is.
Despite their concern, Queen Josephina promotes Ser Aiden Morrow from a lowly hedge knight to a high ranking member of her court. For there is a well hidden secret about our poor orphan Queen Josephina, she is far from helpless. Where as most can see Queen Josephina donning her elegant silk gowns among several perfectly crafted noble gatherings, none see her during the highly extensive combat training. Nor the long hours spent studying and practicing magical arts. The reason for this is because those in royalty have an expertly trained puppet to take their place should the event arise.
For Queen Josephina the need arises often.
Why does the queen train so had? To be able to act with her guards as an elite striking team, reckoning all they can and striking the nearby enemy kingdoms without them knowing, without them realizing what has happened. Why do you ask? For generations Illéa has been a prosperous kingdom, flourishing where others have struggled, expanding into unknown lands, previously thought to be lost to the wilds long ago, but in recent years Illéa has ben plagued by a disease that scientists have yet to find a cure for. The same disease that took the previous monarch far too young from the world.
Now at the mere age of 19, how will our Queen Josephina Gisele Titanos and Ser Aiden Morrow navigate this plague filled world?
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Maven would take Ser Aiden’s dismissal in stride, not allowing it to affect her before striking up a conversation with Dame Cresal, asking about the new technology she had recently been sent. The conversation does the trick, while only two or three people remain quiet, the room seems lively with chatter, awaiting the Queen’s arrival for further discussion.
Josephina would simply smile and bring his hand to her lips, kissing it softly before scooting over on the bed and pulling him up to her side and resting her head on his chest. [b [i [#7fffd4 “Whether it was you proposing or I, my want would always remain the same, and I doubt the mission will change that. I think a nice walk around the garden tonight could be the exact thing my spirits would need to getting better, give me a chance to explain what really happened to my mother. It would be nice to finally get it all out there in the open and tell the truth about how bad things got with her.”]]] Josephina says lacing her fingers with his for a bit of time, wanting to stay in the safety of his arms forever, but knowing that she has a kingdom to take care of as well.
She sighs and pushes herself up to a sitting position, looking over her shoulder at him [b [i [#7fffd4 “I should go talk to them now. I need to get things started if I’m to get back before the peace talks.”]]] She begrudgingly slips out of bed, tightening the robe. Walking over to the wardrobe, she pulls out a cloak, knowing that the moment she’s out of the cold room of the health wing she will feel as if she’s freezing once again. She puts the cloak on over her robe and heads out of the room, walking with her shoulders squared and regality of the Queen she is.
When she steps into the council room there are quite a few gasps, but no one truly says much of anything as she walks to the semi throne in the room and takes her seat. Silently she reads the papers placed in front of her spot and tries to take in the horror of their words before handing the papers over to Maven to read as well, given that she must know everything that Josephina knows. [b [i [#7fffd4 “So, tell me of your thoughts on how we can make this next mission as successful as possible?”]]] The Orphan Queen says, glancing around the room at each member as Maven reads the missive.
Ser Aiden's escort to the council room proved a swift task, his companions following a trail that only in time he'd grow accustomed to treading. The castle walls still presented him with glimpses of the unknown - a banner here, a familial portrait there. They were subtle signs of his state of not fitting; the confrontation of that reality proved aggressive in its argument. He would make due with a sign, any sign at all....
A weight shifted from his shoulders as he entered the chamber proper, the responsibility of the kingdom's welfare distributing itself evenly across the shoulders of the entirety of the Queen's Fire. The gathering of its members across a table made it official - he was one of them... even if he'd have to remind himself every morning for the next few months. The realization would eventually rise with him.
"I'm sure Ser Oak has earned his long-standing place on the Queen's Fire." The young knight gave a reassuring nod towards his elder and focused his attention back at the man's daughter. She appeared younger than he'd expected and was more likely to flatter. He wanted to earn his slot with his own skill-set, not have them wrongly exaggerated. But she could have hardly known. Most people likely operated well enough to her commentary, responding in some way less dismissive.
Taking a seat, he was perfectly content to let all conversation cease. The real objective couldn't be discussed until the Queen's arrival, but his mind was too focused for small-talk. Quite frankly, the castle walls were beginning to feel a bit suffocating. Ser Aiden wanted nothing more than to ride beyond the city's borders and pitch a tent beneath the open sky. The claustrophobia rippled and waved in spurts - by this point causing him to take up more visual counting.
"Not quite," the queen's flame admitted mid-exhale. His brow furrowed and his jaw tightened as he went into a narrow-eyed contemplation. He always appeared uncharacteristically marred by the expression, his entire form overtaken by a sternness that cast a shadow over his otherwise enticing countenance. He reached a counter-conclusion quick enough, a spark in his eyes and a small, personal smile crossing his lips.
"I'm concerned for your well-being, but you already have people who's job it is to take care of it. So I want to focus on improving your spirits otherwise. If you haven't changed your mind after your mission... once you see it fit, we could make arrangements for our marriage. I only wished you'd given me a bit more time to propose myself."
[i To Her Royal Highness, Queen Josephina Gisele Titanos,
By the time you receive this missive, the city of Llivean will have fallen. The Plague has spread now beyond the Borderlands and into the heartland of the eastern forests. It came quickly and struck decisively, disabling our healers in one swipe of a demon's hands. Their delusions took little to no time to overcome them, their mouths foaming with a green foam that dripped onto the dirt and dissolved like acid. We tried to spare as many of our citizens as possible. Alas, we could only gather supplies to save the children and our swiftest carriage riders.
Forgive my failure,
Admiral Cornelius Conrad]
Such were the contents of the council table's most recently-received missive. The surviving citizens of Llivean were kept from entering the city, their members requiring examination and the Queen's approval to enter. The citizenry were growing restless - various members of nobility already spreading unintended terror with their horror-filled speculations.
The guards along the walls had already sent out drones with bread and water, but the children's cries were not elated by food or drink. There was no reasoning with minds that could hardly begin to comprehend the loss of their town, much less their parents. Several of the young-ones cried out for their parents, the guards' eyes filled with visions of their own children doing much the same should the infection spread to the capital. Word of wide-spreading quarantine flooded the city streets.
The stunned look on the knights faces reflects the same astonishment Doctor Willow feels. The simple fact that something like this could even occur, that the trauma inflicted on the young Queen actually saved her life. Doctor Willow simply walks through the knights and knocks firmly on the door before pushing it open and allowing the Knights to walk in first.
[#cd5c5c [b “Your Grace, pardon the intrusion, but I have some news regarding your condition. Ser Thomas may stay as long as you approve my Queen.”]] Doctor Willow says, glancing between the Knight and his beloved. Josephina simply nods, giving Ser Thomas’s hand a slight squeeze. “Well, after some evaluation of your blood work, I discovered that you had the early stages of Dream sores.”]] Immediately Josephina’s eyes bulge, but Doctor Willow simply holds their hand up and continues [#cd5c5c [b “The key word in that phrase is [i HAD], as in you no longer have it. Growing up, you have always been rather capable at magic, and took to each element with a sort of frenzy. Well with all the walls you put up after your mothers passing, a shift in your dominant element was bound to happen. However, adding Dream Sores into the equation caused a more permanent shift in your dominant source of elemental magic. After some time, I imagine, you will be able to gain excellent control over the element of fire just fine, maybe even conjure it again, but I doubt it’ll ever come as easily as ice and water will be now. On the plus side, the massive fundamental shift in your magic has likely saved your life. It cured your dream sores.”]] Doctor Willow states, flipping through her chart [#cd5c5c [b “I would recommend a few days of taking it easy though, your magic needs to settle a bit before you can go off and do anything crazy. It’ll also allow for you to heal a bit more, given that amber is already returning to your eyes, I imagine a normal body temperature shouldn’t be far behind. If you’ll excuse me, I have a few more things to check up on.”]] Doctor Willow says, leaving from the room through their personal study exit.
Dame Cresal has always been very quick at figuring out what is going on in any given situation, but still she can’t seem to process that the snow struck Queen already has amber back in her eyes. She is usually leagues better at not staring, but the Queen’s recovery time is far beyond anything Dame Cresal could imagine possible.
She finally tears her eyes away from the Queen and looks at Ser Aiden, wondering what he thinks of the current development of the Queen, let alone the clearly intimate moment that they had interrupted.
She sighs as Doctor Willow leaves, before looking over at the Queen, while Ser Oak begins to speak [#8f5528 “Your grace, when you are feeling up to it, the members of the Fire would be grateful for your presence in the council room. Till then, we will allow you to rest, and await your arrival there.”] Instinctually Ser Oak and Dame Cresal bow in unison before leaving the room.
Dame Cresal gestures for Ser Aiden to follow. Once in the hallway, Cresal taps the spot of her comm implant and requests two castle guards to stand outside the door [i [#f91606 “Though they aren’t as heavily trained as we are, they are plenty skilled at protecting the Queen on the day to day. We are heading to the council room to await Josie. Then we will be able to discuss the logistics of our trip. For now, you’ll be able to meet Maven.”]] Cresal says as she quickly walks down the hall, Ser Oak silently beside her, assuming Ser Aiden was following suit.
The Council room contains a large wooden table, few drapes on the wall and no windows. The walls are bare sans for the sigil of the Queen’s Fire hanging on the wall. The flame with the obsidian blade laid on top of it. All the other members are already there, in a multitude of sitting and standing positions around the room. All appear relaxed and at ease, except one. A small framed girl with raven hair and a button nose, while she may laugh with the members of the guard, it’s obvious that she has an air of regality about her.
She glances up at the newly arriving members of the guard, and her face lights up at the sight of them. She gestures for them to join her and Dame Cora at the table. Dame Cresal and Ser Oak immediately joins the raven haired girl at the table, and the moment that Ser Oak sits down beside the girl, it’s clearly obvious that they are related, and based on the sever age difference, Ser Oak is likely the raven haired girl’s father. [#8e3c9f “Ser Aiden, Congratulations on becoming a member of the guard. I am Maven Spiritthorne. I stand in for Josie when her duties take her elsewhere. I have heard you are going with my father on the next mission. Please take care of him on your journeys.”] Maven says, giving a small bow of her head towards Ser Aiden, hands pressed together in front of her as well,
Josephina simply stares at the door Doctor Willow walked out of, trying to process everything she just heard. Certainly she couldn’t have heard right. She [b had] Dream Sores, but no longer does? That couldn’t be accurate, no one had survived Dream Sores before. Death was the only result of that disease. She couldn’t have heard him right.
She turns and looks at Thomas, wondering what he is thinking right now. A deep blush grows on her face as she realizes that she just asked him to marry her everyone had shown up.
[b [i [#7fffd4 “Are you okay?”]]] She asks, running her thumb against his hand.
The far-off resounding of footsteps pulled Aiden to a time where boots shuffled against red-dusted mountains. The rustling of shoes hitting ground had once caused a flurry of granules to disperse amongst the surrounding air. Only cloth covering the face and lenses covering the eyes turned the environment's unpredictable discharge of skin-assaulting sands to their advantage and their enemy's dismay. The militant approach of companions caused the knight to look up expectantly, ready for any sort of battle. His mind still veered from the past to the present, maintaining its grip only at the thought of putting an end to a war that had already taken too much from Illian citizens.
The informal encounter of Ser Oak put into perspective the fellow knight's general predisposition. He was cautious, almost to a fault; the Queen would have found it difficult to not be smothered were his advice entirely heeded. Dame Cresel by comparison proved less calculating and more representative of her infallable loyalty to her monarch. She would provide her Queen protective service, but not at the cost of defying her wishes; an order was an order and if it could prove fatal, a member of the Queen's Fire had better adjust to the rising circumstances. Admirable that trait.
A sudden question, not entirely unfounded in concern, was directed at Aiden. It invited him into the conversation, but he found himself internally struggling to come to grips with his previous decision. He saw little in the way of explanations that didn't involve divulging his previous predicament... and now was not the time for emotions to get in the way of his duty. In the few seconds it took him to respond, a furrowing of his brow and a clenching of his first occured. With any luck, the aggression would be disregarding as mere distaste for Ser Thomas.
"Ser Thomas is currently with her. The Queen seemed to be in the throes of grasping for someone mid-dream. I thought her romantic interest would prove more appropriately outfitted to hear her emotional pleas than a knight newly given rank."
[i “My Lion.”]
The sound brought an unbeckoned shiver to snake its way up his spine. His eyes hesitated, finding hers only after they could be felt looking at him. The sight of her, awake even if not fully well, brought a swelling to his heart that surely outweighed the kingdom's heaviest armor. Ser Thomas was slow to move, afraid that if he reacted she might still prove asleep and what he currently say a mirage conjured from his own desperation. Only as he is clutched onto the bed proper and tears fall on his shoulder, a pool of darkened fabric quickly forming, does he fully embrace his love.
For the longest time, nothing seems worth saying. Her mere presence was all he felt any right to ask for, especially in her moment of emotional need. The previous Queen's final moments were imprinted on his Josephina in a physical as well as an emotional one. The marring of her skin brought a sadness to his eyes, but not one founded in lamentation for her "destroyed beauty". The scar would prove a permanent reminder of Queen Amberly's descend into madness, a portion of the disease having forced mother to harm daughter. The notion was as chilling as the feeling of his fingertips gently guided to the wound; it still looked as if it threatened to fester.
[i “I can’t do this alone Thomas; I need you by my side.” ]
The words struck with a mixture of peculiarity and personal, though guilty, joy. The thought of being needed made his presence all the more justified in this moment... but in the back of his mind he could hear the previous queen's counterpoint. Once an individual was needed, they felt trapped.
[i “You’ve always been by my side, you’ve always given me the best council and talked me through any problems I’ve had. I thought you were pulling away earlier, I thought I was losing you too. I can’t lose you Lion."]
He had planned to remain at her side, further offering his protection on a more permanent basis. But his entry amongst the ranks of the Queen's Fire had been denied him. The Capitol would always be serviced, but the position kept him farther away from his beloved than most realized. But she could never lose him - never.
[i I want you to be by my side officially as my love, I want to marry you, I want you to join my side on the throne as the king so we can show everyone our love.”]
The proposal was shocking, but heartfelt - yet he couldn't help but wonder if his beloved were reaching out in hopeless abandon. Was this decision being made free of the day's torments? Was this purely a build-up of emotion? Would she have said the same had he not been thought to have earlier pulled away? The sight of the warmth returning to her eyes, and the beauty it bestowed upon her otherwise ghostly pallor caused him to stare - wide-eyed, mouth agape.
"My love, you-."
A warning knock against the wooden door sounded before it was opened, letting three of the Queen's Fire lay claim to the room's entrance. Their faces were mostly unreadable, something that sounded alarm bells in Ser Thomas' head. He gave Josephina's side a reasuring squeeze. Whatever they were about to announce, he would contest if she willed it. He would be her Champion.
A few moments after Dame Cresal and Ser Addison leave the room, Doctor Willow takes a few blood samples, checks her vitals once again, and removes her dress, simply putting her into a thicker night gown that ties at one side before adding an additional blanket. Doctor Willow slips through a nearby room intending to run some tests in private.
Meanwhile, the remaining members of the Queen’s Fire are meeting in the council room, screaming over one another as to the best course of action as Ser Addison simply sits there watching everyone fight each other on how best to protect the Queen.
Dame Cresal eventually turns her attention towards Ser Addison noting that he remains perfectly silent and begins to follow suit, soon enough so do the rest of the Queen’s Fire. Finally, they look towards their senior member for guidance on what to do in this situation, finally listening to what each other have to say rather than simply bickering.
Around the time Ser Thomas is making his way towards the medical wing, a decision is being formed on the best course of action. Doctor Willow has made an important discovery after studying the blood that had been drawn.
Not long after Ser Aiden has found his way into the hallway does Dame Cresal and Ser Oak appear with an update on the plan that has been formed. [i [#f91606 “So I just want to start off saying that we typically involve all members of the Fire during our discussions. Given that you haven’t had a chance to fully be briefed on how things work and proper protocol yet, we thought it best to simply have the conversation without you this time.
With that being said we have come up with the best course of action. Since the Queen’s magic seems to be on the fritz Ser Oak will be added onto our mission. He excels at illusionary magic as well as sword fighting. He’ll be able to provide our illusion if the Queen were to falter. Given her state, most believe that she shouldn’t go out period, but it is her decision and as the Queen we have to follow what she says. That’s probably what took so long to swallow.”]] Cresal says twisting the bowler hat around in her hands.
[#8f5528 “The most we can do is simply protect the Queen best we can. Even if she’s going on a mission that could cause a lot of pain for a lot of people. She takes our council, but she is young and hasn’t shaken her youthful stubbornness just yet. Her mother was incredibly reasonable throughout her reign, up until she fell ill that is.”] a cloud falls over his eyes as far off thoughts cloud his mind.
[i [#f91606 “Queen Josephina will come into her own, you know that, she just needs to realize she isn’t completely alone in this. Given everything she’s been through lately it’s understandable she’d want to do something about it. Ser Aiden was right earlier, getting out of the capital for a time will help her immeasurably. It’s not like Queen Amberly didn’t do the same thing. I’ve seen the reports of Queen Amberly’s extensive trips to the coast when she first became Queen. They all adjust their own way.”]] Dame Cresal states before turning her attention back to Ser Aiden, [i [#f91606 “Speaking of the Queen feeling alone, who’s in the room with her right now?”]] she looks a bit concerned, looking over Ser Aiden’s shoulder at the wooden door separating them from the Queen.
She remains still, lying in the snow covered field, surrounded by nothing but the cold and frozen snow. It swims through her as well as falling delicately around her. Her eyes flutter open and she looks around the field, wondering if there is anything more, anything around, anyone to care that she’s so far lost. On weak arms, she pushes herself to a standing, determined to find something out in the frozen waste land.
Her snow colored hair falls around her, barely moving in the wind as she pushes through the ever piling snow, doing her best to keep her feet moving, looking for an end to the nothingness. The snow is coming up to her knees as she travels at this point, making any movement hard.
She stumbles, falling to the ground and into the bank of snow. Her small frame is over taken by the snow, as she tries to claw her way out from under it all, receiving no reprieve from the cold.
It’s almost as if the more she claws the more snow piles on top of her, as if the world is determined to keep her suffocated in the cold and desolate world she’s found herself in. Her arms tire along with her spirit, and while she tries to keep the will up to fight, she’s losing it by second, wanting to give up, wanting to simply drown in the snow.
[#fde412 [i [b "Josie, it's alright. I'm here. It's me - Thomas. Your lion. Please, come back to me."]]] Thomas’s words pierce through the snow, ending the ringing silence. Josephina can hear him calling out to her, begging for her to return. Somewhere far from where she is she feels a warmth, soft and gentle, like a breeze in early spring, calling out to her.
This warmth gives her the will to fight once more, allowing her to dig her way out of the snowy grave. She brushes herself off, looking around searching for the direction of Thomas’s words. Yet as she spins around she instead finds herself staring at her mother.
The long fiery red hair falls in the natural curls like waves of fire well down her mother’s body. [#fd2712 [i “Josie, don’t leave me all alone. It’s so cold here. My Young Phoenix, stay with me, keep me warm. Don’t leave your mother here in the cold all alone.”]] It’s twisted and sad, it’s her mother’s face, but it’s not her. She knows it’s not her, it couldn’t be, she is dead.
[b [i [#7fffd4 “You can’t be real. I watched you die.”]]] Josephina says, taking a hesitant step backwards, unable to tear her eyes away from her mother.
[#fd2712 [i “No my darling Phoenix, I’m here with you, always. Don’t leave me, I need you.”]] It’s those last three words that solidifies Josephina’s resolve. Her mother would never say that she needs her. Her mother taught her to never [i need] another person, but to have people around because they are wanted, because those who feel wanted are the ones who stay because they truly care, and not out of obligation.
[b [i [#7fffd4 “No, you aren’t my mother.”]]] Josephina says, starting to turn around, before the figure in front of her bursts into flame. Josephina’s eyes go wide as she attempts to get away, stumbling back and falling into the snow, doing her best to scramble backwards but not being able to make it away before the creature slams into Josephina’s side, marring the right side of her in flames.
Josephina takes a deep breath, waking up in the medical wing, gasping for air. She looks around the room and sees Thomas sitting beside her. The sight of him, holding her hand so dearly, clearly desperate for her to be okay brings tears to her eyes. [b [i [#7fffd4 “My Lion.”]]] She says in a soft and weak voice, staring at him through blurred eyes.
She recalls the dream state that she had just been in, the sight of her mother, the fire scorching her side and it causes a tipping point where the tears begin to fall freely. She pulls Thomas onto the bed, burying her face into his shoulder, and allowing herself to feel the pain she’s been bottling since that fateful night.
The tears come easily in Thomas’s arms, wanting to express the pain she’s felt, to finally let it all out. After a bit of crying, Josephina is finally able to calm down enough to speak again [b [i [#7fffd4 “She burned me before she died. She was out of her mind and was dragging me through the castle, trying to escape from her delusion and turned to through fire at Ser Addison but I was in the way and it caught my side instead.”]]] She’s say, pushing the blankets to the side, untying her night gown and revealing the scars she’s speaking of. [b [i [#7fffd4 “This is the real reason I haven’t made a public appearance. I was in bed allowing this to heal. The healers could only do so much to mend the wound, I couldn’t even attend my mother’s funeral. If it weren’t for Doctor Willow I likely wouldn’t have healed properly from the wound.”]]] She admits, moving his hand to touch the scarred flesh.
With his hand on her side and just how much better she feels being able to talk to him tears begin to stream down her face once again [b [i [#7fffd4 “I can’t do this alone Thomas; I need you by my side.”]]] She says, grabbing both his hands, not caring that her gown still isn’t tied [b [i [#7fffd4 “You’ve always been by my side, you’ve always given me the best council and talked me through any problems I’ve had. I thought you were pulling away earlier, I thought I was losing you too. I can’t lose you Lion. I want you to be by my side officially as my love, I want to marry you, I want you to join my side on the throne as the king so we can show everyone our love.”]]] Josephina says, small flecks of amber returning to her eyes as she does so.
Doctor Willow would step out into the hallway from their personal lab at the end of Dame Cresal’s question. [#cd5c5c [b “I wouldn’t worry about the Queen; she is doing much better. It’ll be a slow process for her to recover, but she will be fine. I found something interesting in her blood work though, something I hadn’t seen before. So as we all know that certain traumatic experiences can cause a shift on the fundamental level of a person’s magic. But it doesn’t truly alter the magic forever, simply change it a bit. Well I was reviewing previous blood work of our Queen and her current blood work, just to clarify that it’s still the same, and I came across something I’ve never seen before. It makes perfect sense though, her mother had it, and was in extreme contact with her daughter during one of the episodes, but it’s a miracle all the same.”]] Doctor Willow says and they begin to pace around the group, clearly still trying to wrap their mind around it.
They eventually stop and turn back around to the group [#cd5c5c [b “Right sorry, some clarification would be nice I’m sure. So the dream sores seem to create this alternate plain, something that the ill can’t truly shake and are eventually overcome by before they die. What this means on a medical level is that it either causes a twist in the inflicted persons genetic code, it practically changes the core of an individual like their soul is twisting to exist in this plain that is created via their illness. We still aren’t able to determine how it’s passed from one case to another, but it appears that the late Queen had passed it to our poor Orphan Queen. It was still very much in the beginning stages of the illness, a certain paranoia had routed in the queen, giving far more emphasis to things that would cause isolation. Now our Queen has always been rather talented with multiple elements beyond fire, something her mother was rather proud of, so it’s only natural that a traumatic event would cause a shift of her powers. However, due to the fact that she had already caught the illness the shift caused a complete shift of the fundamental magic inside the Queen, but this also simultaneously cured her of the dream sores prior to her truly falling ill. Now of course I won’t be able to determine if she is now immune to the illness right now or not, there simply isn’t enough time till you plan to depart, but what has happened today has likely saved the kingdom from a greater peril than the loss of one queen, but our entire royal regime.
I still have more testing to do, but with the complete biological shift in the queen’s magic, I don’t believe we will ever have Josephina back to how she was before, not entirely at least. She will be able to gain a proper heat back in her body, and be able to control the elements just fine, but I don’t think the young Phoenix will truly rise again.”]] Doctor Willow says, crossing their arms across their chest and looking between the three knights before them.
Ser Aiden gave a sigh of resignation with the door's closing. He couldn't deny that the new system he found himself a part of was proving a difficult one to acclimate to. While he was undeniably most useful at the Queen's side, it was only because he was both aware enough to identify threats and combatively capable enough to defend against them... and nothing else. Seeing Dame Cresel in action made him lament his lack of magical affinity. The communication pad at his hip made him feel uneasy, its destructive potential fully understood but never before utilized.
There was something about the separation between using magic or technology to defend yourself versus the end of a blade. The latter felt... definitive. Like you were intentionally confronting an enemy. It made the knight wonder how easy it was for certain people to click a button or blast a foe. Was it easier on the mind and soul? Did the distance granted provide the casters and technicians with a sort of relief one couldn't get when you were made to watch another person in front of you? He shouldn't be fixating on such thoughts, but this environment just didn't seem to fit him all too well. He longed to be back in the Borderlands, climbing rocks and signaling sentries.
Hours of silent watching turned Ser Aiden into a statue. Minutes went by where he swore he didn't blink, his mind keeping from distraction as much as possible. There were thirty-seven creases in the nearby window drapery, 442 textiles making up the infirmary floor, 4 dozen glass vials, ten rows of four bars dividing each window-.
A rapid knocking of wood snapped him out of his numerical endeavors. A glance towards the Queen revealed her to still be fast asleep, likely drained from her magical expolsion. After several hours of watch, Ser Aiden was relieved at the prospect of being updated on what the remainder of the Queen's Fire had decided. His legs ached as he approached the door, his hands forced to be flexed awake as he grasped the door handle. His face immediately grew dissatisfied at the opening of the door. Even Ser Addison, with his face of constant sterness, would have been more welcome.
[#990000 "I'd like to speak to the Queen, Ser Aiden,"] the Young Lion spoke in a measured tone. It seemed little more than an acknowledgement of his desires. The question could have been ignored and the door shut in his face, but the sound of quickly-rustling fabric caused Ser Aiden to look back. The Queen seemed to be fidgetting in her sleep, torso turning and hands grasping beyond the sides of the bed in motions that proved as futile as they were frenzied. [#990000 "Please,"] the visitor pleaded.
Ser Aiden looked between the his Queen and her potential consort, carefully considering his next actions. While he didn't believe that Ser Thomas was the best to be in her presence, he thought of his previous beloved. How would he have reacted to being denied access to her in a time of need? If he could help, if he could have stopped her death.
[#93DB70 "Go on,"] he said in a dead tone. Ser Thomas clapped him on the shoulder and thanked him earnestly as he strode past. His own demons haunted him too much at the moment; he needed the solitude of the hallway. The previous guard shut the door behind him, allowing the couple a few moments of privacy. The Young Lion strode towards his Josephina and gently took her flailing hands in his. Kneeling at her side, he dotted the back of her hand with gentle kisses.
[#990000 "Josie, it's alright. I'm here. It's me - Thomas. Your lion. Please, come back to me."]
The moment Doctor Willow and Ser Addison enter the room; the room seems to become a bit warmer. Ser Addison also excelling at fire magic allows the room to return to a semi normal temperature, if the ac was still on rather high. [#cd5c5c [b “Your Grace?”]] Doctor Willow says in a soft voice, approaching the Queen and kneeling before her. Dame Cresal nods in response, glancing back at Josephina and seeing that what little recognition was there had left her again.
Doctor Willow softly takes Josephina’s hand in his and puts their fingers against the location of her artery in her wrist. [#cd5c5c [b “Vitals appear to be fine, just a significant decrease in body temperature. A clear shift in the magical component of her system. Based on the strength of her pulse it’s not a permanent one. We need to get her to the medical wing for further examination though. Ser Aiden if you wouldn’t mind picking her up and carrying her.”]] They say, pulling the pencil out of their hair, allowing their long golden hair to fall in waves around their slender frame. They pull some paper off the queen’s desk and begins to write something down as Dame Cresal follows shortly behind. Ser Addison falls into line behind Ser Aiden, hand remaining on the hilt of his sword as they follow.
The walk to the medical wing is a short one, and within a few silent minutes of walking they are entering into the private examination room for the royal family. Doctor Willow gestures to the bed and simply begins to pull things out of the cabinets, clearly already knowing what would be needed to attend to the Queen. [#daa520 [i “Cresal, go alert the remaining guard to this development. We will need to make sure they are up to date. Also Retrieve Maven from her chambers, she will also need to be briefed on this change.”]] Ser Addison says, putting a hand on the woman’s shoulder, truly showing just how small her frame is in comparison to the senior member of the guard.
He turns his attention to Ser Aiden, [#daa520 [i “We will need you to take first shift of guarding the Queen as we work out a proper course of action based on the development. It’s likely that she will want to depart as soon as Doctor Willow allows for her to, we need to make sure that is still a secure plan and her illusion magic is still reliable enough to allow such a venture. If not, Ser Oak will also be accompanying you on your journey.”]] Ser Addison says pulling him to the side and speaking to him in a low voice.
Dame Cresal works quickly, making her way to the typical location of the other members as quickly as she can.
The moment she is in Ser Aiden’s arms, the heat radiating off of his body flows through her, causing discomfort from the intensity of the temperature difference. Her head rest against his chest, as she remains limp in his arms. The lack of control she has over her current state infuriates her. This was not anywhere close to what she wanted to happen. She is supposed to be a Phoenix, not a melting snow flake.
The feeling of the bed beneath her, and the muffled sounds of the different people in the room speaking causes Josephina to try and stir. She needs to know what’s happening, but the only thing she can hear is the soothing sound of Doctor Willow as they put an IV in her arm. The level of blankets on top of her brings a bit of a comfortable heat back into her body, but she still remains cold. Her eyes refuse to open, and before long she’s pulled into a deep slumber, unable to fight any longer.
A series of pulsating tendrils cast themselves outward along the width of Ser Thomas' right bicep. The origin point proved a commonality, one which his eyes instinctively sought to find. His eyes reacted lazily to the form of on the the Queen's Fire. Her proximity had been neither anticipated nor noted - not in his effort to regain his Josephina. Light exhales of breath flowed from Dame Cresel's nostrils like an insiduous vapor and it did not take him long to notice his own forward stream of hot air... like a geyser that had been too-long halted from release.
Unintentionally depriving himself of air, Ser Thomas took in what would otherwise be a calming breath. The cold spread down his throat and into his lungs; he momentarily feared it would overtake his heart as well. He could not allow that. He had to act. Luckily, the Dame readily provided him with a course of action. She was cogent, if not a bit patronizing.
Only as he bypassed Ser Aiden en route to the door did he notice that the third knight had been intent on utilizing force to pry the Queen from her seeming captor's grasp. For all the Young Lion had accomplished this day, there was small wonder. His emotions had gotten the best of him. His composure had been cyclically built and abandoned, the inconsistency causing a breaking of someone dearest to him. The hope of redemption kept his pace hurried, the cold like a skin-pricking reminder upon his hands of his misdeed. What had he done to his lovely Josephina?
Recognition returned to the Queen's eyes after a stint. The woman appeared before them in body, but her vessel was completely devoid of spirit. The room appeared a sorry affair, sprinkles of snowfall falling to the ground with great haste. The floor seemed to consume the downpour, altering its appearance with darkened shades of dotwork. It all reminded Ser Aiden too much of the mountain ranges across the Borderlands. Too much of nights spent hidden in caves, nestled into furs and up against a fire with someone no longer living. The cold and snow reeked of death.
"You have a lot on your plate," the knight pointed out with great candor. "It can't be easy - a kingdom on the brink of war, the recent loss of your mother, your seemingly turbulent dalliance with Ser Thomas. It's really too much. You should consider resolving one matter before addressing the others, if at all possible. In fact, I suggest a pleasant stroll through the Borderlands."
Ser Aiden gave the Queen a self-humoring grin. She had already made quite clear her intent to avenge her mother's murder. Aspa was only a few days ride, even from the Illean capital. If she had so much energy to devote to personal crisis, she could very well channel it to mitigating them. The capital was truly the last place she was of use. Her current state would likely only worsen - something was eating at her, corrupting her. The knight wanted to make sure it was expelled both effectively and practically.
Two figures approached the door - or, rather, the lack thereof - with some hesitancy. The poor wooden slate had been completely ripped from its hinges by a single kick. . No one could claim that magic would have done a better job unless it had hit Ser Thomas whilst avoiding the Queen. Ser Aiden would have to ask if Dame Cresel could have accomplished such a feat - her control of magic seemed exquisite, bar few he'd ever encountered. Ser Thomas' lack of return was met with a nod of approval. Best he keep away, lest he make the situation worse. The Queen needed solutions, not more problems.
There is a brief moment of shock when Ser Aiden finds his way in front of Cresal and kicks the door open. He’s new, so he isn’t aware of the typical formation for entry, so she doesn’t allow it to phase her in this moment. The sound of Aiden’s threat falls on deaf ears, for it’s immediately apparent that something is rather wrong with the Queen.
Time seems to slow down, as it always does, when Cresal surveys the situation. The sight of both Ser Aiden and Ser Thomas’s breath in the air, the indented yet lack of color transformation from where Ser Thomas’s hands grip Queen Josephina’s arms. The slight discoloration around the rims of both Ser Thomas and Queen Josephina’s eyes. The very apparent change in the Queen indicating a shift in the magic in her veins. The way Ser Thomas is pleading with Queen Josephina indicates that the change wasn’t directly correlated with something he said, more so something he likely didn’t.
After the few seconds it takes for Cresal to survey the scene, she immediately springs to action, putting herself between Ser Aiden and Ser Thomas, [i [#f91606 “Aiden, don’t.”]] is all she says before the electricity all but disappears from her hands. She turns towards Ser Thomas and places a delicate hand on his arm, allowing just enough electricity to remain flowing through her hands to jolt him into acknowledging their presence. [i [#f91606 “Ser Thomas, go fetch Ser Addison and Doctor Willow, she is safe with us, but she needs to be seen immediately. You are the best to explain what happened so you need to go get them, can you do that?”]] Cresal says, no longer talking to Ser Thomas as though they are similar in age, but as if he were a child, needing to be brought back to reality.
Cresal turns her attention immediately away from Ser Thomas and towards Queen Josephina, taking Ser Thomas’s previous location in holding her up. When she manages to take Josephina from Thomas, she effortlessly moves her to the window seat, trying to sooth the frozen statue which has formed in her place.
Josephina watches as Ser Thomas rises from his seat and comes over to her, despite her protest otherwise. She takes a step back, trying to keep him from touching her, but she is simply not quick enough. The moment his hands grip onto her arms, a strong burning flows from his hands, searing her with his body heat. Surely he hadn’t always been this warm, had he? Had she simply been so unaware of his heat before? The sight of his breath filling the space between them, where hers does not, answers her question. It is not that he has grown hotter, but that she has simply lost all of her own heat.
The way he tries to speak to her, begging her to return to herself, to come back to him, to wake up, to talk to him, it falls on deaf ears. The sensation of her body being shaken is dull and far off, like she couldn’t be truly connected to the physical form he was holding. The physical appearance of this disconnection comes in the form of unfocused eyes and limply handing limbs. She can see the red rimming his eyes, the desperation and determination filling his soul, but can’t seem to fully grasp the reality of what’s happened.
Suddenly Dame Cresal has taken the place of Ser Thomas, and she is no longer standing but sitting on the window seat, staring mindlessly at Ser Aiden. The heat of Dame Cresal holding her up on the window seat is far easier to bare than Ser Thomas’s. She runs colder, has she always run colder?
[#7fffd4 “What a pitiful Queen I make, unable to make it through a single day of events without falling to pieces.”] She says in a whisper of a tone, but given the silence in the room, loud enough for the two remaining in the room to hear. The slightest trickle of snow begins to fall in the room, seemingly out of nowhere.
The surrounding air is brought to an sudden chill; a relentless cold snap that shows no intent of departure aggressively claims the room under its dominion. Its stranglehold only tightens as the Queen ushers forth a series of orders and congratulations. Her voice lacks any audible sincerity, her words formalized to perfection but delivered not to an individual. She spoke as if addressing an invisible crowd. She spoke as if eyes followed her every movement. No action was above scrutiny.
[i “Ser Thomas, I would like to thank you for your diligent service and kindness all these years. If there is something I can do to return such kindness feel free to ask.”]
The distance between them had been solidified, distance made manifest with the air of the magic of frost and bone-chilling cold. As if to announce her new allegiance, the Queen before his very eyes took on an appearance akin to legends of old. The most accomplished magic-users were always paragons of one stripe, eventually completely embodying their preferred output. The magic that had always resided in their blood was catalyzed and molded to embody their new form.
But Josephina had always been a creature of fire, a pervading ember in search of kindling. She had always been quick to spark, impossible to extinguish. She had radiated joy and love - and sought them in kind; the two forces proved her constant companions. But now... she was emptiness incarnate. A solitude pervaded from her form, now encapsulated in white and veiled in hair made silver where it had once shone copper. Perhaps someone would have found her immensely beautiful, but Ser Thomas had fallen in love with the woman that had inhabited the body before.
This individual coveted no affection; they instead buffeted him with aggression. The snow, once a childhood reverie for the approaching of a new season, was now hardly enchanting. The Queen's words clamored against the walls and echoed with a hollow ring. The roaring licks of flame now sharpened into stalagmites - swords of frost if he'd ever beheld such a thing. For the first time in a long time, Ser Thomas felt fear. But a lion did not cower - it led.
Ser Thomas found himself gifted with an abundance of freely-given knowledge. It was almost surprising that the woman have so much detail as to the justification of her decision. She hardly seemed defensive - more thoughtful that anything. Dame Cresel made expressely sure that the new member of the Queen's Fire carried no delusions of his expected commitment. He may be burdened with the protection of the kingdom's most important figure, but her protection did not need rest on all of the guards all the time. The group operated as a cohesive unit, sharing burdens the likes of which others could not be entrusted to carry. They almost sounded like a proper family; he felt himself becoming enraptured with the idea.
The open-secret amongst the guard came to the knight with a bit of difficulty. Ser Thomas represented this generation's ideal of knighthood. He was from a family whose renown was known even across shires that demanded none of their protection, but received it well enough in times of war. No doubt they had risen to further prominence with the efforts against Aspa. It should have hardly been surprising... but the knight concluded he had previously thought Queen Josephina above such predictable action. She could have easily had her pick above such superficiality.
A high-pitched scream, clear as crystal and as punctuating as glass rung throughout the corridor. The fluctuation of pitch was accompanied by a disturbing show of electrical surge. The two knights reacted in tandem, Dame Cresel seeming to channel a portion of the surrounding current. Its spark was well-contained in her hands, snapping out in minimalistic fashion until likely cast from her fingertips. In comparison, Ser Thomas felt the drawing of his sword and knife far less impressive.
The door to the study was flung open by a swift kick from Ser Thomas, his form rushing in the room to provide some distraction from Dame Cresel. No doubt she could handle herself, but the novelty of being newly-appointed left Ser Thomas with a feeling of needing to prove himself. Hopefully he had appeared decisive rather than reckless to his fellow companion. Expecting a threat, his eyes settled upon one as soon as his skin was punctured by it. The scene struck like a slap to the face and stung about as well. The Queen, or, rather, who could only be assumed the Queen was a tempest of frost-casting turmoil. Her arms were being tightly squeezed, her form contained by a frantic Ser Thomas. He shook the Queen with about as much delicacy as one would a warfriend.
[#93DB70 "Unhand her, or I'll relieve you of your hands," Ser Aiden shouted over the cataclysmic cold.]
It was almost like a game, sitting there and watching as he feigns following her direction, only to create an intimate space between the two of them. A flutter in her chest brings forth nothing but pain in this moment, with the warmth of his hand touching her noticeably cold cheek. His words of knowledge bring forth a coy desire to tease and be flirtatious with him in this moment. A shadow of the person she had previously been.
Holding his eyes, the tears she had choked down for so long threaten to rise out of her, to come to the surface and allow her to feel a pain she’s ignored. A response to his comment on the tip of her tongue, the closeness of his body before hers pulls a strong desire to share her pain, to allow this one person she’d treasure for so long in to see the pain she feels.
The way he draws back so quickly, refers to her as [i “Your Grace”] causes the cold to fill her once again, ending the warmth that pulls at the person she once was.
She glances down, unable to look at much of anything through the blurred vision that’s formed. The temperature drops significantly as she steels herself and brings a quick end towards the tears that had begun to choke her.
[#0000cd “You are rather correct; you do seem to know me rather well. This observation of my choice on elevating Ser Aiden’s position is in fact an accurate one. This is a secret you mustn’t share with anyone. As you know, while I am gone, Maven will act as my stand in, attending to all of the things that I am intended to do. If you could make this transition an easy one for her I would greatly appreciate it.”] She says, picking up her comm and looking through the itinerary she has for the next few weeks. [#0000cd “I’ll send you the list of the events in which I am to attend. Maven is excellent at being me, she understands my mannerisms, she knows how I hold myself, she even knows the way my speech fluctuates in certain circumstances, but when it comes to making choices, your direction on those matters may be necessary. I would appreciate the assistance on such things.”] She states typing in and sending him the list.
She leans against the desk, facing away from him and towards the wall, trying to weigh how to properly end this conversation. She pushes off the desk and walks over to a nearby mirror, looking at herself for the first time all day. She notices the emptiness on her face and realizes how simple it had been to see such a thing. [#0000cd “Ser Thomas, I would like to thank you for your diligent service and kindness all these years. If there is something I can do to return such kindness feel free to ask.”] The calm and even tone is the same one she uses while addressing the court.
The cold and even tone stirs something inside of her, something she could never expect or have any reason to believe would occur. The existing fires in the room, the candles, the warmth from the fire place ceases, being blown out by a severe chill. It’s almost as if the air itself has lost all warmth. The electricity flickers as well, threatening to cease their presence as well, but remaining strong.
The severe cold is not the only thing to become immediately noticeable. While holding her own gaze it’s immediately apparent to Josephina that something is rather wrong. A chill surges through her, infecting her very soul. From the pupil in her eyes a frost creeps out, extending and expanding until every trace of amber is washed from her eyes. If only the transformation ended there. The icy transformation rushes through her veins, silencing the last remaining traces of fire through her veins, the magic burns through her, cold. The brilliant reds of her hair goes stark white. The trail of snow white hair begins slowly, few strands trickling and raising out of the perfectly crafted braids, before the entirety of the braids falls apart and her hair bursts out into a blanket of white snow well down her back.
[#7FFFD4 “Get out.”] She says, wrapping her arms around herself and turning her back even further on Ser Thomas. The words come softly at first, but the cold burning through her causes a trickle of snow to begin to fall, and the ice of her words bursting out of her without control [#7FFFD4 “GET OUT!!!”] Ice forms in the place of the previously roaring fires. The pain appearing in Josephina’s eyes is unforgiving and evident, the emptiness has found its way into her soul and formed a block of ice around her heart..
[center [pic http://www.photorodionova.ru/uploads/photogallery/phg545acdd12cbda.jpg]]
As they walk through the hall Cresal can’t help but chuckle a bit at his comment about becoming her pet. The thought of treating him as anything less than an equal hadn’t even crossed her mind. She had been wondering how he would best integrate into their group, but it was evident that he could easily fill the previous roll of Dame Vaella and her humor.
Cresal drops her gaze to the ground and taps her toe against the floor, stopping and leaning against the wall. She takes in his question and looks up a bit, trying to weigh her answer. [#f91606 [i “Wellbeing apart of the Queen’s Fire was always a goal of mine, something I had dreamt of since I was little. You see being head of household is great and all but nothing will be able to compare to the time I spend within this guard. Plus, once we become too old, we have to step down from our position, for the sake of the Queen of course, which means there will be time in the future for running a household. Typically, we end up taking some minor leaves for family related things. For example, when my sister Isabelle got married last year, and when my brother Kalvin was named my mother’s heir, I was there for that. Nothing stops up from being able to go to these things, simply request to the Queen and our current duties.”]] She says with a shrug pulling herself up onto the window ledge.
[#f91606 [i “Also anytime it involves Josie, Ser Thomas has immediately important matters to attend to. Well-kept secret among the guard is that we totally know that they have a fling going on, or had one, not certain if princess shenanigans are continuing now that she’s queen or not. You’ll learn quickly, that the guard likes to gossip among ourselves, especially since we are unable to talk to anyone else about most of the things we know. Ser Addison is the absolutely worst about it, especially being the senior member, He likes to pretend like he’s very above it all most of the time, but he tends to have the best knowledge.”]] She says laughing,
[#f91606 [i “I’m not one for pets though, tend to get fri---“]] the sound of the Queen screaming and the sudden fluctuation of the electrical current running through the building causes Dame Cresal to slip off the windowsill and land in a full sprint, electricity sparking from her outstretched hands as she sprints back to the Queen’s study.
The Young Lion made an open show of following her invitation to sit before her, desk between them. He stepped forth, completely bypassing the left side of the desk and seating himself atop the wooden structure - mere breaths away from the Queen as he leaned forward. His dominant hand found her left cheek soon enough, gently guiding her gaze upwards. His eyes were filled with barely-contained remorse, softened only by a fleeting gaze of affection.
[#990000 "Stop it,"] he beckoned in a hushed tone. [#990000 "I may not have a monarch's mind, but I.... I like to think I know you Josie. You've appointed me to the city watch. You've chosen a Borderlander as a member of your personal guard. I'm no fool... not entirely."]
A quietly-admitted lamentation echoed in particular in his last sentence. But even now and otherwise throughout, his entire body communicated tender endearment. His volume had been evenly kept just above a whisper, just conducive enough given the ever-closing chasm between them. Ser Thomas, let it be consciously or subconsciously, leaned more and more forward at the expiration of each passing sentence. Their greatest secret proved his greatest treasure; above titles, above any possible appointment, he wanted most to remain in her favor.
Within stirred an internal conflict, a roiling ardor that sought to distinguish this moment as public or entirely private an affair. He had already crossed the boundaries of his station. He had placed his hand on his monarch as only her intended king should. He had already spoken to her with a familiarity forbidden by his vow to serve her as a knight and nothing more. A force tugged at his heartstrings, pulled by the mourning in his beloved's eyes.
He wanted to shield their encounter from all but the faintest of moonlight. He wanted to find solace in their secrecy, their figures kept hidden by the complexity and height of the labyrinthine gardens. He wanted to press her body as close at he had nights before the passing of the previous Queen. He wanted the only counter to their shared warmth to be the stone bench, nice and cool as their hands searched for balancing purchase.
[#990000 "Your Grace,"] the knight acknowledged suddenly after his address. He looked to the side, breaking eye-contact, and moving swiftly to take his rightful place across the desk. Stolen kisses with the Princess were one thing... a Queen an entirely other. She should not have assumed their clandestine relationship would continue as it had. After all, perhaps she had already as subtly as possible denied him in making him Captain of the Guard. His mind should have come before the heart.
In earnest truth he would have entirely missed Dame Cresel's presence were it not for her spurring movement forward to engage with him. He initially thought that nothing following another close-proximity encounter with Ser Thomas could bring him to socialize, but his fellow Queen's Fire member piqued his interest well enough. Not only were they part of the same order, but the faintest smell of oil pervaded from the young woman and filled his nostrils. He mentally and emotionally prepared for a friendly, if not overly-enthusiastic, exchange; he already compiled a very questions of his own to counter her's.
[#93DB70 "I've been informed as much as time allowed before Ser Thomas entered. Matter must be important for the new Captain of the City guard to demand an audience."] His tone had an unintentional bite to it, one that his contemporary hardly deserved. He cast a flippant smile and gave a laugh. [#93DB70 "I can hardly deny a senior member, much less a lady, of any requests. Call me what you will. But if you take to adopting me as pet, please refrain from informing the public."]
Was that humor at his expense or unintentional flirtation? The thought crossed Aiden's mind no sooner had his words left his mouth. What was he doing? He'd seen countless warrior women before; why was this one any different? She was a knight, and a lady... she was a [i lady-knight.] Both a paragon of noble and aristocratic ideals; likely as skilled with a weapon as her... mouth? Tongue? Court speech patterns were proving difficult to fully adopt. The fancy phrases served almost intentionally also as double-entrendres. How did anyone get away with such suggestions?
[#93DB70 "You strike a rather notable figure, Dame Cresel,"] he acknowledged with a gesture up and down her form. She was practically a perfect melding of masculine strength and womanly charm. Her attire was tailored in vest, but airy and lacy in the blouse beneath. Her hat was common amongst echelons of mercantile goods and political affairs, only decorated with patterns, branches, and berries abloom. [#93DB70 "You would have made quite the head of a house. What made you decide to be a knight?"]
The warmth of Ser Aiden’s hand resting on her shoulder draws her eyes from the unfocused point beyond the window and up to his eyes staring down at her. The beginning of his sentence reveals something she can’t quite place, but before she can figure out the kind of pain that is evident on his face there is a rapid yet polite knocking on the door.
Ser Aiden is at the door and pulling it open before Josephina is even able to react to who is about to enter. She gracefully turns around and stares at Ser Thomas on his knee before her. Mindlessly she notices that Ser Aiden has also vanished from the room within the same moment. She simply turns around and closes the curtains in the study before settling in the window seat. She holds Ser Thomas’s eyes for a few moments, recalling the last time they had been alone together.
The site of the moon shinning brilliant in the sky above the secluded bench in the maze of the royal garden was one that Josephina has always adored, but the pounding in her chest at anticipation of a secret romantic moment with the only one her heart had ever felt drawn too created a joy unlike any she’d known before.
The beauty of Thomas walking in the moonlight was breath taking, his appearance so ethereal. The precious moments they would steal that night, the sensation of his lips pressing against hers in the brief moments before their departure, the heat that had settled deep within her in those moments, fueling the fire running through her blood for nights to come till they meet again in the secluded corner of their world in the dark of night.
The sight of him before her provides the reminder of that heat, but the persistence of nothingness will not give easy to the feelings of a frivolous child. His words of reprimand sit in silence for a moment as she searches for what to say.
She stands and walks over to her desk [#0000cd “Thomas, I’m not certain what you mean by that. Who would have provided you such inaccurate information? Clearly there is no time for a trip away from our castle when Emperor Aeonis will not give budge to extending the time till the peace talks. I must spend every moment I have available to preparing for these talks, if I do not I may not be able to do our homeland justice.”] she states, gesturing for him to sit down in one of the chairs on the other end of the desk.
[#f91606 [i “The newest addition to the Queen’s fire appears to be around my age, but clearly doesn’t have the typical confidence of a knight. It’s not too unusual that Josie would be so reckless and make a choice that doesn’t have an easy explanation. She isn’t the same since the knight her mom attacked. The wounds healed nicely though. It’s a shame we lost Dame Vaella though, she was always so detailed with her stories. It’s not the same at the tavern without her. Perhaps Ser Aiden will like to go drinking some time.”]] She states, tapping the recording device that resides in her ear to end the newest entry in her journal as she tinkers with another piece of technology just recently issued by their researchers.
The grease coating her hands has become a frequent feature on Cresal, not being present only in the rarest of moments when ceremony calls for such an occasion. She chews on the inside of her cheek as she fights to get a nasty screw out of the item as she tries to reveal the inner workings of the energy conversion weapon. The paper work provided to her had gone into detail about how the weapon is supposed to convert her magical abilities into a bullet of sorts, turning the electric current running through her veins into a shot she can fire at others. It’s supposed to work in a way most would use a staff or a wand, a conduit for her abilities.
Getting a bit too frustrated at the screw she simply lets out a laughing sigh before setting the screw driver down. When she does this, the alarm she set for being able to speak with Ser Aiden after his discussion with Josie goes off. Cresal grabs her bowler hat and puts it on, wiping her hand off on the rag tucked into her belt before heading out of her room/workshop.
Knowing all the secret ways through the castle makes her trip from the Queen’s Fire housing to the Queen’s Study in short time. She leans against the wall on the opposite side from the door, giving her enough time to settle there before Ser Thomas arrives and knocks on the door, she simply stares at him a bit confused.
When Ser Aiden opens the door and the two practically swap spots Cresal pushes off the wall [i [#f91606 “I imagine she’s informed you about our assignment? Did she do the weird face thing? The first time I saw that I was a bit surprised. A lot to take in, but I’m sure you’ll get hang of it quickly Aiden. Is it okay if I call you Aiden?”]] She asks, easily falling into step beside him, her bouncy pace following easily beside him.
The Queen's words are taken in with the careful scrutiny common to the citizens of the marches between Illea and Aspa. Their populations were always first to bear the brunt of war, their territories baring the other country from invasion. With such a tumultuous region to act as home, the fringes of both societies developed a quick call to arms and an even quicker realization of the consequences of failure. Ser Aiden left the Borderlands a clash of technological scavengers and mercenaries and untrained magic-users. As much as the Aspan rebels wanted to use their stolen technology to besiege the Borderlands, so too did the Borderlands covet the introduction of new machinery. This war had already seen dozens of mercenary companies torn through with automated steel-projectiles... and what happened to the sorcerers and sorceresses was a thousand times worse.
Even though it was his Queen's gaze that came to meet his, an entirely different set of eyes were envisioned. Unnatural orbs of volatile blue struck with fractures of shock-white haunted him, pupils wide in panicked fright. The woman screamed a silent cry... and then her body fell limp to the floor. Death pervaded their conversation, each lingering in their loss and rising only with the fuel of their anger. Ser Aiden rises carefully, approaching his monarch with great delicacy - eventually coming to rest a reassuring hand on her shoulder. He stares at her intently, daring for her returned gaze. When it finally came, his grip on her shoulder intensified as he began to speak.
[#93DB70 "We'll make the bastards pay, Your Grace. If it's-."] A knock on the door interrupts the knight's speech, insistent but polite. Ser Aiden ventures to open the door, a fellow knight standing arms folded behind themselves. Even looking at him, Ser Aiden couldn't help but admit that if nothing else... Ser Thomas would have certainly made a more noble and valiant looking member of the Queen's Fire. He mechanically let the other knight enter, Ser Aiden looking back at the Queen with a nod that conveyed his intended departure. They could always speak later - and anyhow, Ser Thomas wasn't a figure he reckoned anyone could deny. Even his resting face was majestic; it made Aiden irrationally want to relieve him of some of his teeth.
[#990000 "Your Grace,"] the Young Lion spoke as he knelt before the woman with a life-long rehearsed elegance. Even kneeling, he was every bit the lion; Ser Aiden found his way out the door quick enough, relieved by his flaring of emotions. As the door came to an almost-silent close, Ser Thomas continued. [#990000 "You're leaving."] It came off as more of an accusation, his eyes daringly meeting his Queen's in open reprimand.
A small smile plays at her lips as he comments on the emptiness that's become routed in her. The sheer fact that he's able to see through the façade she's been putting on brings a bit of warmth to the coldness she'd grown accustomed to. She sets down the comm and listens closely to what he has to say [#0000cd "Well I am pleased to hear of your dedication to our kingdom. I would be lying if I didn't admit that most thought that I would have chosen Ser Thomas. So the fact that I chose you means that I have more faith in your skills and commitment than concerns for public appearance."] She states, holding his gaze with ease.
She stands once again, walking towards the window seat, unable to stop the longing sensation for simpler days that creeps into her heart. She quickly turns on her heel and faces him. [#0000cd "We have been at war with Aspa for far too long already. I do not fear his war. Even if the Emperor himself found us in his lands, he would not be able to recognize us."] A chill falls over the room as he voice becomes hard like ice, the sight of multiple faces forming over Josephina reveals the depth of her magical abilities. [#0000cd "With magic on our side I will be able to hide us from even the most skilled investigators. I've done it plenty of times before. Illusions are my true gift."] She says in a softer tone, recomposing herself and looking back out the window.
[#0000cd "My mother's passing was covered up. The truth of her death was severely under played. She didn't just start to show symptoms, she was already hallucinating in it's full glory, attacking people and hurting herself in the process. She had the Dream Sores. The fact that the emperor will not even allow for proper mourning time of my mother, our Queen, strikes me as odd. They only began to make headway in the war when our people began to fall ill. Too much to merely be a coincidence. Of course without proof I cannot truly do anything about it. Going into the kingdom is the only way to get proof. Though I cannot allow word to spread about my assumptions of the people will demand blood. This knowledge is only known by my trusted few. This is why we risk capture, is to prove that Emperor Aeonis is behind the death of our Queen, after the cease fire had been called. Which would mean that he broke the terms of our agreement and I would be able to respond in kind."] her back remains to him while her eyes stare unfocused out the window. The rage boiling just below the surface is slowly chilled by the endless emptiness residing in her soul.
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